After serving Lewis & Clark for 20 years, Associate Vice President for Public Affairs and Communications Joe Becker will retire at the end of the Spring 2021 semester. Becker is primarily responsible for the increase in media coverage and representation of the school on both an international and national level in his department.
Becker has played a valuable role in the college’s narrative through relationships with students, alumni and administration. His work in alumni relations and his contributions to the growth of the college’s social media and internet presence built newer and more efficient avenues for communication.
Originally coming to LC as a law student, Becker had no idea he would graduate and quickly return as an employee. After being raised in Pennsylvania and earning an undergraduate degree in North Carolina, moving to Oregon with his wife led to him permanently settling on the West Coast.
According to Bruce Suttmeier, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Becker has always been a supportive asset in times of need.
“[Becker] has saved me many times from my own sloppy prose, patiently tightening, clarifying, and improving my sentences,” Suttmeier said via email. “When a crisis hits, we all rely on him to get accurate, important information quickly to the community.”
According to Becker, LC has significantly progressed on both a national and international stage during his tenure. He believes that LC has grown not only in strength but in the value of its academic prowess and success. Becker felt that his purpose on campus was to bring people together and form long-lasting relationships.
“The undergraduate college was less focused on career and outcomes, not that those were not important things, but those were not as much seen as what the college in any way prepared you for,” Becker said. “It was really much more about the liberal arts academic disciplines, and I think there has been a very significant evolution over time.”
Becker has a strong background in academic publishing as a text editor. As part of the communications department, he sees himself as an editor, working to proofread and refine the campus as one would an essay. The growth of LC’s social media presence specifically has played a role in the increase in alumni relations, something Becker takes very seriously and hopes will continue to improve and expand after his departure.
“He does a ton of work behind the scenes, with admissions, with departments, and with nearly every office on campus,” Suttmeier said. “He is calm and level-headed and funny, a colleague whose advice, I quickly learned when I became Dean, was well worth taking.”
Becker said his communications team and the multitude of relationships he has built during his time on campus are what he will miss the most.
“The best part of my job is how many smart, engaged people that I get to work with every day, every month, every year, who are committed to knowledge, who are committed to making the world a better place,” Becker said. “That’s what I will miss, getting a chance to work with such a broad range of really cool and intelligent people.”
Becker will be embarking on a “self-funded sabbatical” where he hopes to continue building on his current writing projects and spend time with his wife. While he did not initially plan on retiring at the end of this year, the COVID-19 pandemic forced him to look inward and reflect on how he wanted to find new adventures in his life and with his family.
“You have probably heard of people having three-year plans or five-year plans for their life, and I think if you would’ve been talking to me for whatever reason a year and a half ago, I think my five year plan probably would’ve included still being at Lewis & Clark for at least a good chunk of that time,” Becker said.
In the eyes of LC’s Director of Public Relations Roy Kaufmann, Becker will be missed most for his values and work ethic, as both a colleague and friend.
“Joe Becker leaves enormous, sensible shoes to fill,” Kaufmann said. “His dedication to Lewis & Clark is unassailable, and that dedication is surpassed only by his acumen and professionalism. I am grateful for his leadership, mentorship, and most importantly, friendship.”
The next several weeks will be spent searching for replacements for Becker as he prepares for his departure. While a specific applicant has not yet been chosen, he has no doubts that whoever takes up his reins will thrive with help from his colleagues and communications team.