The Tao of Andy Beck

Of greenness, practicality and
a nation's physical history



Rodney Hill, a professor in the Department of Architecture at Texas A&M University, describes Andy Beck during his undergraduate years as a glorious mixture of quirky conservationist ideals and a personality capable of inspiring teamwork and cohesiveness among people from widely divergent backgrounds.

"Every decade or so, one of those students comes along who has this great grasp of the important ideas and also is a natural-born organizer and leader," said Hill. "Andy was one of those."

Andy, who went on to enjoy a highly rewarding career of almost 30 years with the planning design and project office of the U.S. National Park Service in Denver, succumbed to leukemia March 28, 2007.

He was an avid conservationist, a calling, Hill noted, that Andy once made evident when replying to one of Hill's letters. The envelope was as interesting as its contents, the professor explained. Hill's original envelope had been turned inside-out, Andy's reply was inserted, and the envelope was sewn shut for its journey to Texas.

As a student, Hill said, Andy's deep conservationist tendencies were evident and quite strong. One of the few people currently at the college who was also here when Andy earned his bachelor's degree, Hill tells stories of Andy's organizing student-led events to advance the public acceptance of ideas of preservation and environmental sensitivity.

But it was not just his ideas, Hill noted, it was that he was able to organize people at a conspicuously conservative military school to come out in favor of such green issues. One does well to remember that this all occurred during the Vietnam War - not an easy thing, not on the College Station campus, not back then.

Perhaps what buoyed Andy's fearlessness as he moved from Texas A&M into professional life was his certainty the truth would come out in matters of our culture's natural and historic assets, that the tide of time would inevitably lead to the conclusion that, as the years passed, Americans needed to become more aware and protective of the built and natural environments that have accompanied the culture to its present state.

Maybe it was that rare convergence of awareness that can occur in a place like Texas A&M, in which one finds a balance between the really old, like nature and culture, and the really practical, like farming and soldiering. Within and between those two poles, the growing undergraduate mind might well find a balance between what must be done and what might be possible.

Beyond the academy: professional practice & awards
Andy graduated, earned his architectural license, and ultimately found his place at the U.S. National Park Service. While working there, he designed some 400 structures ranging from the grand, such as some of the gems of the Park Service's repository of historic structures, to the mundane, such as outhouses.

Perhaps the most notable of all is his restoration of the famous Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park. The inn had originally been constructed completely of logs in 1903, offering 350 guest rooms. It remains the nation's largest log structure. Among the building's other impressive features is its seven-story lobby. The restoration was carried out gradually, through a series of mini-projects spanning 10 years, mostly carried out during the Yellowstone winters when tourist traffic was at its lowest, but also when temperatures often hovered around zero degrees.

During the 20th century, various parts of the building fell into disrepair or were subjected to changes not consistent with its architectural tone. It was Andy's task, in his words, to take the inn back to a state in which it was preserved "in a fashion that future generations can use and enjoy it as our great grandparents did."

The project was a resounding success. It netted Andy what might be called the "Triple Crown" of national architectural awards. He won the National Endowment for the Arts' Federal Design Achievement Award, the President's Award for Design Excellence (the highest honor the president of the United States can bestow on a federal project), and the National Historic Preservation Award from the President's Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

Keeping perspective: personal trials in the wake of national recognition
It was at about the same time that the nation was thanking him for his work on the Old Faithful Inn that Andy learned from his doctor that he was battling an advanced case of lymphatic leukemia. His life was prolonged in 1995 thanks to a bone marrow transplant from his brother and he lived another 12 years. He was survived by his wife, Susan, and daughter, Cade Marcus.

Andy's contributions to the U.S. National Park Service, which also included the Fossil Butte National Monument visitor center outside Kemmerer, Wyo. and the National Grasslands Visitor Center in Wall, S.D., were remembered in an April 22, 2007 story in The Denver Post, "A Colorado Life: Beauty of buildings was Beck's passion," which can be accessed online at:

- the end -


Andy Beck
Please click on images for slideshow

Update your contact info and share your news!

The College of Architecture strives to keep up with former students and share their successes in the archone. newsletter. Please take a moment to update your contact information and tell us what you've been up to. Click Here
bottom page borders