Impact of Giving

New residence honours trailblazing couple

Author: Development and Donor Relations

Posted on Jul 29, 2020

Category: Creating Opportunities for Students , News and Events , Innovation , Tribute Gifts

UNB’s newest student residence in Saint John will honour two key figures in the campus’ history, Dr. Barry Beckett and the late Flora Beckett.

The Becketts joined UNB Saint John in 1966. Barry became a chemistry professor and campus registrar. Flora became a mathematics professor and director of the Math Help Centre. They helped build an identity for the campus based upon research excellence and community engagement.

The 40,000-sq.ft, geothermally heated Barry and Flora Beckett Residence features 104 beds and will open in January 2021. Students can apply for beds in August. A ribbon cutting will be scheduled in autumn.

UNB President Paul Mazerolle praised the Becketts’ legacy.

"Barry and Flora Beckett embodied the commitment to academic achievement, public service and sustainable growth that defines our university,” Dr. Mazerolle said. “By demonstrating a desire to see every student succeed, they helped UNB Saint John grow from a small commuter campus into a forward-thinking, international centre for research and education."

"During Barry Beckett's tenure as registrar 3,991 students earned degrees at this campus,” Dr. Mazerolle said. “A majority were the first in their families to attend university, and many credit Barry and Flora with encouraging them to discover their potential as innovators, caregivers and community leaders. It is fitting that generations of students will begin their educational journeys here, at the Barry and Flora Beckett Residence."

A chemistry teacher by profession, Barry Beckett came to New Brunswick from the United Kingdom in 1966 with his wife, Flora, a talented mathematician who had grown up in Sackville, NB. They met in 1961 during a student work/study excursion in the Grunewald Forest of Berlin, Germany and were married in 1962. The Becketts were planning on staying in New Brunswick for a couple of years, but the energy and impact of the fledgling university campus in Saint John enticed them to stay.

Barry Beckett said the residence is a testament to the campus’ importance to the community.
“When the first classes opened uptown, many families in this city were struggling to send even one child away to university,” Beckett said. “UNB Saint John offered people the opportunity to make up for lost time through evening classes and part-time study.”

The Becketts realized that the campus offered an opportunity for students to join in global conversations. Barry became “a rebel with a cause,” dedicated to creating an identity for the campus. Flora took up the challenge of making mathematics more accessible to students with little grounding in STEM subjects. Their vision was shared by many of their colleagues.

“We wanted to validate the campus through the strength of its research and its impact in the community,” Beckett said. “We knew we could do lot because we were a close-knit campus. Right through the 1970s and ‘80s, if I’d lost the script at graduation, I could still have called the students by name.”

Barry Beckett completed his PhD at UNB in 1970 and in 1979 became UNB Saint John’s registrar while continuing to teach. When he retired in 1999, he was awarded the title Registrar Emeritus.

Flora Beckett taught from 1975 until 1998. Upon retiring, she taught the first UNB course at Concord College in Beijing. UNB’s Alumni Association named her an honorary member in 2011. She died in 2013. The Flora Beckett Math Help Centre at UNB Saint John is dedicated to her memory.

Flora and Barry Beckett celebrating their anniversary

Barry Beckett said he will always remember the moment when he realized that they were succeeding in their efforts to raise the profile of the campus.

“I was explaining a difficult concept in class, and I realized that one of the students trying to understand me was from Chance Harbour and another was from Hong Kong. Each had chosen to come here, to be part of our community,” Beckett said.

It means “a helluva lot” to Barry Beckett that the new residence will carry both their names.
“UNB Saint John was never just about granting degrees. It was always about enriching the community,” Beckett said. “Flora and I fell in love with this remarkable community that was developing around the university. To be recognized together in this way is a great honour.”

Lesley Beckett Balcom, UNB’s Dean of Libraries and the daughter of Barry and Flora, thanked UNB on behalf of the Beckett family.

“It’s an honour to have the new residence named for our parents,” Beckett Balcom said. “They were active and enthusiastic supporters of international students on campus, so a residence that will foster the interaction between students from near and far is a lovely way for them to be recognized.”

UNB Saint John Vice-President Dr. Petra Hauf said the residence is part of a growing sense of excitement and momentum on the campus.

“Barry and Flora Beckett contributed to the momentum we are experiencing today,” Dr. Hauf said. “Our campus began with a commitment to effective education, and there has been a strong trajectory toward increasing the university’s impact in the community. Today, 90 per cent of our faculty and staff volunteer in the community and our campus has become a force for change in areas such as health, education, entrepreneurship and the social sciences.”

“The Barry and Flora Beckett Residence honours the vision that had guided this campus for more than 50 years, while inspiring our students to create a prosperous and sustainable future," Dr. Hauf said.

UNB has established the Beckett Campus Community Fund to provide more opportunities for students to stay on campus after classes, connect with and learn from one another and further develop commitment to the community. Those interested in supporting the fund and the Beckett legacy on campus can donate here.