Remembering Dr. Jim Beddow

It is with a heavy heart that we share the passing of Dr. Jim Beddow, longtime RSC advocate and friend.

June 27, 2023 |

RSC's 2015-2016 Board of Directors, pictured in St. Charles, MO with Dr. Jim Beddow (far left) at a board planning retreat.

It is with a heavy heart we share the passing of Dr. Jim Beddow, longtime RSC advocate and friend, on Sunday, June 25, after a brief and unexpected illness.

Dr. Jim Beddow, pictured here with an RSC "Good Apple" glass board award, recognizing his service.

Jim Beddow was among the earliest supporters of RSC's work, and served on the board from 2015-2022, including as the 2017-18 board chair. Jim spent much of his professional life creating and supporting rural-centric initiatives and collaborations in South Dakota, and beyond. Jim was the impetus for RSC's 2016 Mitchell, SD meeting that sparked the Rural Teacher Corps learning network. Jim was a strong supporter of many rural teacher grants, and was instrumental in RSC's early success, strategic planning, and asset development.

Mike Knutson, current RSC Board Member of Watertown, South Dakota, and longtime friend of Jim, shared the following reflection:

Many of you know Jim for his service on the Rural Schools Collaborative Board - Jim met Gary Funk, RSC's founder, in the early days of the Rural Schools Partnership, perhaps around 2009 or 2010. As I am sure Gary could attest, Jim provided invaluable advice and counsel to set in place the foundations for the Rural Schools Collaborative.

I feel so fortunate to have checked in with him while traveling back from the Rural Schools Collaborative summit in Springfield, MO in early June - I wanted to tell him the latest about the RSC because it would make him happy to hear how our organization is progressing. I was surprised to learn he was in the hospital. Luckily, I was able to get in and see him.

Jim Beddow, as 2018 RSC Board Chair, presents Kaci Vander Vorst, of Eureka, South Dakota, with her Rural Schools Collaborative Grants in Place award poster.

True to Jim's fashion, he was upbeat and positive. His questions were persistent, "How is so-and-so? What's happening with...?" His questions were about you, the RSC community, board, and staff. His selflessness and caring were amazing.

It has been interesting to watch the South Dakota media cover his passing. Most stories focus on his 1994 campaign for South Dakota governor and for being the longest-serving president of Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, SD. Unfortunately, these articles miss Jim's real impact. Jim's legacy rests with people. People like me.

“In big and small ways, Jim impacted everyone he met. . . His legacy and impact will live on in all of us.”

I first met Jim as a student at DWU in the mid-1980s. He knew my name. He knew my hometown. He knew my career aspirations. He even knew my parent's occupations. It felt like he cared about me - not because I was special or unique - but because I was a person. He was the same with every student and employee at Dakota Wesleyan. If you have met him, you understand this because he undoubtedly treated you the same.

Later in life, I had an opportunity to work side-by-side with Jim helping rural communities throughout SD. Jim became a champion of rural communities because he realized the impact that growing up and living in rural places had on his life. He did most of this work from behind the scenes - investing in people so that they could invest in helping their communities thrive.

In big and small ways, Jim impacted everyone he met. Even when his name is not affixed to an organization or project, he helped plant the seeds upon which those efforts sprung. His legacy and impact will live on in all of us.

Jim Beddow, far left, and the 2022 RSC Board & Staff at the April 2022 RSC Strategic Planning Retreat in Chicago, facilitated by Mike Knutson & Joe Bartmann of Dakota Resources

We invite you to read Jim's 2017 Letter on Advancing the Concept of Rural Teacher Leaders.

Jim's obituary can be viewed here - Instead of flowers, family members asked for donations to the Jim Beddow & Cooper Johnson O'Gorman tennis scholarship. We hope you will join the RSC Board & Staff in showing your support.

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