Beth Kahn Leaman
Above all, It was WC - the students, faculty, and staff - that fostered me through four years of personal, social, and academic growth.
How has your liberal arts education influenced you? How do you apply your LAE in your current career?
My major was in Drama, and my first job after graduation was as a seamstress with Center Stage in Baltimore. In the middle of the night after opening night of one of our most ambitiously staged productions, arsonists - looking for a different target - caused the theater to burn to the ground. I was 22 years old and had to personally and professionally cope with both the loss and the recovery. I think that my WC education prepared me to do both of these. The show must go on! Above all, TEAMWORK was essential to move the theater season forward. As we rebuilt the season at a different locale, PLANNING, ORGANIZATION, COMMITMENT, CREATIVITY, and FLEXIBILITY are skills that I honed at WC and enabled me to contribute, even at my entry level, to keeping Center Stage alive and well to this day.
Drama, however, was not to be my life’s work. I moved to a career in business. I attribute my successes to volunteering for assignments or projects that created new services for our business. Sometimes this was risky, but I had confidence that my CRITICAL THINKING skills and my ANALYTICAL approach to problem solving would result in success.
About 10 years into my career, I got a new boss. It turned out that he was a WC grad 10 years before me. He got me reengaged with WC - first by giving to the Washington Fund - and then by volunteering in different areas. While I am sure that my professional growth was on my own merit, I feel that the WC connection enhanced our work relationship and spurred me on to greater achievement.
Above all, It was WC - the students, faculty, and staff - that fostered me through four years of personal, social, and academic growth. If it were not for the WC learning environment and the close community, I do not know that I would have finished college at all!
Who was your favorite faculty/staff member? Story?
While I only had him for two courses, I thought that Dr. Brown (Mathematics) was one of my favorite professors. The time: 1969 - 1970. Washington College still did class registration by visiting tables in the gym and signing up - literally - for classes. I took first year Calculus. Dr. Brown used a new set of textbooks that not only taught Calculus, but it integrated computer programming throughout the course. Instead of exams and tests, we had to develop computer programs to solve calculus problems. It was so current to learn so much about computers - to be able to do everything from defining the problem, designing a program, creating the punch cards used to give instructions to the computer to executing the programs and debugging. What I learned from Dr. Brown led me to my eventual career success by understanding elements of computing and analysis.
What is your favorite Washington College memory?
My favorite memory was participating in the protest activities associated with the U.S. and South Vietnam invasion of Cambodia in May 1970. It was a very interesting time with college and university students protesting and taking over campus buildings and Kent State where 4 students were killed by the National Guard. How would the little college on the eastern shore of Maryland respond and participate?
We formed a group that protested by spreading out across many eastern shore communities and collecting petition signatures to end the war. In today’s world, this may not seem like a lot, but we put in lots of time and commitment. We felt that we made a very positive impact through the results of our organizing and in the way we supported non-violent protest. It turned out that the college faculty and administration, many of whom were also involved, ended up canceling all finals for the spring semester in 1970. What a time!
Did your Senior Capstone Experience (or thesis project) have a major influence on your future career or your personal growth? If so, please explain what your SCE entailed and how it influenced who or where you are today.
For my Senior Capstone Experience, I directed a play. I think it was a great experience, but I cannot remember enough about it to relate those experiences to my professional growth. But, I am sure it was a great learning experience, teaching me skills beyond those of just getting the play produced.
as a Student:
I was active in sports, playing on many intramural teams. One of the sports we did not have available to us was rowing. WC men had just started in the sport. One of my friends and I started the process - working with Penny Fall - of getting a shell for women so that we could develop a rowing program. That program started in my senior year, but by then I was too focused on completing curses for my major to actually participate.
I was in the Alpha Chi Omega sorority and was president of the Panhellenic Society my Junior year. My legacy in this position was to work with one of the WC sororities and their national organization to expand their charter to enable African-American women to be able to pledge and be accepted as members.
- BS, Business Administration, Towson University
- MAS, Business Management, Johns Hopkins University
- Currently: Retired
- Previous Occupation: Vice President, Business Process for Automatic Data Processing (ADP)
Beth worked for Center Stage in Baltimore, Alexander and Alexander (now Aon), William M. Mercer, and Automatic Data Processing Benefits Services. She retired from ADP in 2010. In addition to working as a Trustee on the Washington College Board of Visitors and Governors and chairing the Nominations committee of the Alumni Board, she spends her time traveling, golfing, gardening, and volunteering.