Passing of Wal Beckhouse OAM
It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of former Burgmann staff member, Wal Beckhouse OAM, on 23 May. Wal dedicated 26 years of his life to the College, serving as the first Maintenance Manager from 1979 to 2004, where he is remembered as being a 'real gentleman carer of students and staff'.
In 2012, Wal was honoured with an Order of Australia Medal for his work as a returned services league volunteer. His beloved wife of 63 years, Pam Beckhouse OAM, was also awarded an Order of Australia, receiving recognition in 2018 for her service to people with a disability.
Wal and Pam attended the College’s 50th Anniversary Commencement Dinner at the National Arboretum on 4 March 2021 as special guests, and it was wonderful to introduce them to new members of the Burgmann family.
During his time at Burgmann, Wal ran the Workers of Burgmann College program (WOBCO), the scheme established by the College to provide paid employment for students. Wal and his crew of Burgmann workers created the HMS WOBCO, a beautiful miniature ship which flies the Burgmann and Le Chat Noir flags. The ship was created in the Burgmann workshop to celebrate the contribution to College life by treasured community member Neil Bessell, and was presented to Neil at a special dinner in 1983 for ‘dedication to the ship and keeping it afloat.’
The legacy of Wal’s work at the College continues to this day. He remained in touch with countless students over the years, and his impact can be seen in the enduring beauty of the timber tables in the Dining Hall and the suspended timber ceiling in the Grenfell Price Meeting Room. These remarkable features serve as a testament to his commitment to the College.
Previous Principal Dr Philip Dutton shared the following reflections in a reference letter for the nomination of Wal for an award within the Order of Australia in 2011:
"It may seem interesting from the outset that we never coincided in our service to Burgmann but his extraordinary service for over 25 years, from 1979 until 2004, and his special visits back to see us have allowed me to form a very clear picture of his extensive contribution to the lives of others in this College across many generations of students, some whom now serve in key national leadership positions.
His service may be considered exceptional on a number of grounds. Firstly, he had an uncanny ability of being able to recognise students who were restless and quite often involved them in the manufacturing and production aspects of our maintenance workshop. He took a special interest in students and I have met many alumni now who remember him fondly as a great and settling influence in their lives. I recognise that this personal motivation on Wal’s part went well beyond his position description and is consistent with the measure of the man in his other areas of interest and service in the community.
Secondly, Wal’s dedication to the full maintenance of the College was borne out in special ways. It was his longstanding work ethic to manufacture and produce within our own workshop everything that it was possible to make. As a result, the College dining room, for example, is furnished by the most magnificent and everlasting timber tables that in themselves are a testament to his skills, unique outlook and personal ethos. It is perhaps his construction of a remarkable and celebrated suspended timber ceiling in our Grenfell Price Meeting Room, an addition that would normally have been beyond our resources to fund, that is his crowning glory and a treasured tribute both from him and to him."
Wal will be dearly missed by all of us here at Burgmann.
A funeral service will be held on Wednesday 14 June 2023, 10.00am at the Good Shepherd Anglican Church in Curtin, Canberra.
1. Wal & Pam Beckhouse with Vicki Guyer and Charlie Rozario at the 50th Anniversary Commencement Dinner
2. An early photo of Wal at Burgmann College
3. HMS WOBCO (1983)
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