Curt Frederic Beck, 1924-2020, Professor Emeritus at UCONN and Expert in International Relations, age 96.
Curt F. Beck died peacefully at his home in Mansfield Center, Connecticut, at age 96, on Friday, March 20. Beck was an instructor and professor at UCONN from 1947 to 1992 in international relations, and taught generations of state and regional political leaders in his classes and was active in local politics throughout his life. He was also well known in Connecticut as the husband of Audrey Beck, the beloved State Senator and State Representative from Northeastern Connecticut, who died in 1983. He also outlived his two other wives, Althea McLaughlin and Ina Ruth Sarin.
There will be a private gravesite service and burial at 2PM on Monday, March 23, at Storrs Cemetery on North Eagleville Road; and a memorial service later in the year, date to be announced. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the UCONN Foundation Meredith Beck Mental Health or Curt Beck law and public service funds.
Curt Beck was born February 4, 1924, in the affluent Wannsee District of Berlin, Germany. He was born into an intellectual family, with a lifestyle made possible by his grandfather, Willy Frank, who was a Banker and Metals industrialist. Beck’s father was the Philosopher Maximilian Beck, of the German phenomenalist school, and his mother the noted East African colonial history scholar, Ann Beck, who taught for years at the University of Hartford. He and his parents fled Germany in 1933 for Prague, where he attended a French school, Gymnase Real (Lycee). In 1938, Curt and his parents were able to move from Prague, via Switzerland and Holland, ultimately on to New York City under the sponsorship of one of his father’s cousins, and with the help of the philosophers’ academic community. He completed high school at George Washington High School in New York. By the time he completed high school he spoke German, Czech, French and English, and could understand Russian, but retained a strong, distinctive, German accent his entire life. He obtained degrees from Cornell (BA, 1943), Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (MA, 1944), School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins (MA, 1944), and Harvard University (PhD, 1950).
He began teaching at the UCONN Fort Trumbull branch in 1947, which was set up for education of returning World War II veterans under the GI Bill. He then moved to Storrs in 1949, where he spent the rest of his life, except for 1952-53, when he temporarily moved to Washington DC and joined the US State Department in their Eastern Europe desk, in the early days of the Cold War. But when many immediate colleagues got called before the infamous McCarthy Hearings, he left to return to UCONN for good.
At UCONN, Beck taught basic politics and international relations to many future leaders. He was proud of his role in their education and could recite by heart the grades many politicians had received in his classes (and he kept detailed files of his comments on their class work). He was a popular teacher, several times scoring at the top of the “Best Teacher” awards, based on votes by UCONN students, mainly in the 60s and 70s. But he never really embraced the research and publishing aspects of academic life, instead turning to heavy back-room involvement in local and state politics. In fact, he was a delegate to state democratic conventions, even up to this year, 2020, at age 96! He was chair of the Mansfield Democratic Committee in 1978-80 and President of the Tolland County Democratic Association from 1955-57. In Mansfield he was on the Board of Tax Review from 1977-79 and the Board of Assessment Appeals from 2002-07. He was also interested in local history, and for many years was a volunteer guide at the local historical mill sites in Gurleyville.
After his daughter, Meredith, was diagnosed with Schizophrenia in 1976, he dedicated himself to public service in mental health, fighting tirelessly for better access to progressive health care and new methods of treatment as they were discovered. He used his political connections to get appointed to the State Board of Mental Health in Connecticut, serving from 1987-2006. He also served as president of the Connecticut Chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill from 1993-1995.
Following his retirement from UCONN, he also remained active in the academic community, particularly at the UCONN Center for Learning in Retirement (CLIR), giving many lectures on Mental Health and International Relations. He gave his last lecture for CLIR at age 95, on the current instabilities in the world, and the factors leading to election of leaders such as Trump, Boris Johnson, Jair Bolosonaro and others. Having grown up in Germany in the early days of the ascent of the Nazi regime, he had very strong views drawing parallels between the Nazi movement in the 1930s, its relationship to the economy and workers situations in the 1920s, and the current trends in the US.
Most recently, reflecting on his life in Storrs, he gave generously back to the University, establishing the “Meredith Beck Mental Health Information and Support Fund,” and the “Curt Beck Law and Public Service Opportunity Fund,” through the UCONN Foundation.
In 2018 he completed a memoir, “From Wannsee to Storrs”, which is available on Amazon.
In additional to all of the above, he was widely traveled. He took an extended trip to Eastern Europe in the early 60s, when travel behind the iron current was extremely challenging, through West Africa, soon after the independence of Countries such as Mali, Ghana, Ivory Coast, and Nigeria, and many other trips which are recounted in his Memoir. These travels provided many insights for his teaching.
In his late 80s and 90s he was delighted to celebrate the marriages of his two grandsons and to get to know his two great grandchildren.
He leaves behind a son, Ron Beck; a daughter-in-law, Ariela Beck, two grandsons Nathan (wife Sarah) and Elliot (and wife Monica) Beck, and two great grandchildren Portland and Piper Beck.
Portland and Piper Beck.
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