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Family Legacy Meets Fresh Leadership: Powell and President Steer Wesleyan

05.21.2024 | By: Wesleyan University
Beverly Powell smiles from her desk

A familiar face beams from behind a mahogany desk, sunlight catching the worn leather of an armchair beside it. Beverly Powell, a name synonymous with dedication to Wesleyan, isn't giving speeches in the Senate anymore. Today, she wields a different kind of influence. 

Powell, now the Assistant to the President for External Affairs, is a bridge between Wesleyan and the Fort Worth community she knows so well.  Her voice, seasoned by years of experience in public service, shapes the future of the University. 

Powell started as a consultant for President Emily W. Messer in November 2023, working on projects such as the feasibility of Wesleyan’s new athletic complex, the Engage. Inspire. Invest. A Comprehensive Campaign and chairing the committee for the hiring of the new head football coach. Her contract will continue through November 2024. 

The Volkman Powell Legacy at Wesleyan 

Wesleyan isn't just a workplace for Beverly Powell; it's a place where her family story unfolds across generations, leaving a legacy as rich as the soil. 

Her father, Donald Volkman, came to Wesleyan as a young World War II veteran fresh off the battlefield, finding solace and love in a religion class. That's where he met her mother, Donna, a Northside High graduate and the university's "Most Outstanding" female athlete of 1949 – a star on the basketball court, volleyball court and soccer and hockey fields. Their love story, born on campus, blossomed into a family tradition. 

Donna Powell poses in the 1949  Wesleyan Yearbook

Fast forward, and Beverly, a single mother of three boys, found herself in the harsh grip of a 1980s economic downturn. Her once-thriving real estate career was floundering. Undeterred, Beverly decided to take a daring leap and reinvent herself. Wesleyan became her launchpad, and she enrolled as a psychology major, a non-traditional student amidst a sea of younger faces. 

“I came to Wesleyan at kind of a low point in my life,” she said. “The 80’s were hard for real estate professionals and a lot of people didn’t financially make it out. I was a little battered from the economic downturn.”  

But Wesleyan, she says, embraced her with open arms. It wasn't just academics – she even joined her son, also a TXWES student at the time, in a fun golf class, a testament to the University's vibrant, inclusive environment. 

“I found myself again, which I think is true for lots of students here at Wesleyan,” she said. “I was reminded of what my qualities were and what I had to offer the world. I went back to my career in real estate with a renewed sense of myself.”  

After a few years with great success in her career, Powell decided to go back to TXWES to get her MBA.  

“[My family’s] had a long-time legacy love affair with Wesleyan,” she smiled. 

This profound connection fueled Powell's passion for the institution, leading her to the Board of Trustees and eventually, the Senate. 

“I have always thought it was such a privilege to be on the board of this institution,” Powell said. “When I think about what we’re doing at Wesleyan, it’s all about how we plan for the brightest future possible.”  

Five new members join the  Wesleyan Board of Trustees

Powell has been involved in several projects over the years, including the Rosedale Renaissance, the construction of the Martin University Student Center, the opening of the Nenetta Burton Carter Building — and now the Karen Cramer Athletic Stadium and Moritz Field House.  

“I’m so proud of everything that we have accomplished so far, and I’m excited to be a part of what happens next,” she beams. “I will always be a part of Wesleyan University.” 

Enriching Education 

Beverly Powell's story isn't just about titles and committees. It's about the transformative power of education, a lesson learned firsthand as a non-traditional student.  This experience sparked a lifelong commitment that propelled her to the halls of the Senate, not just as a member of the Higher Education and Public Education Committees, but as a fierce advocate for opportunity. 

 “I believe, as most people do, that education is the greatest economic elevator. I have been very focused on, for many, many years, public education and making sure that all kids have the opportunity to thrive,” she said.  

Beverly Powell sits around desk laughing with team

This dedication isn't just a political platform; it's a personal mission.  At Wesleyan, she champions grant funding to strengthen the teacher pipeline, ensuring the University continues its legacy as a "teachers' college."  Because for Powell, it's not just about degrees, it's about empowering lives. 

“I think it’s important for TXWES to continue that focus to make sure all of our kids have access to a high-quality education and that they can persist all the way through post-secondary education,” she said. 

Her experience as a senator also expanded her world view and allowed her to create connections from all areas of commerce, including Lockheed Martin, Bell Helicopter, many Dallas-Fort Worth healthcare facilities and local government agencies. 

“We need a strong workforce across all professions including healthcare, teachers, scientists and people who are concentrated on STEM careers. I have a really broad understanding of what our communities' needs are,” she said. 

And she personally believes that the Smaller. Smarter. experience Wesleyan offers can continue to spur development in our community. 

“There are so many students who, like I was, a non-traditional student, who need additional support, who need face time with their professors, who need that relational environment we have here, which fosters a greater community of care, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity,” she said.  

The Karen Cramer Athletic Stadium: A Catalyst for Community and Connection 

Karen Cramer Stadium Ariel View Mockup

The Karen Cramer Athletic Stadium isn't only about victories on the field. Beverly Powell envisions it as a catalyst for the entire East Fort Worth community. As she says, "We've been in conversations with Fort Worth ISD, Mayor Mattie Parker and the city of Fort Worth to maximize the capacity for seating to make sure it's everything it can be."  This collaboration aims to ensure the stadium serves not only Wesleyan's athletic programs but also addresses the needs of Fort Worth ISD schools, as evidenced by the . 

"The greatest thing about this facility [Karen Cramer Athletic Stadium] is that it brings new people into East Fort Worth, and we desperately need that to happen so that businesses on Rosedale can thrive," Powell emphasizes. This project goes beyond athletics; it's about connecting with the community, spurring economic development, attracting events and revitalizing the area. 

However, the potential impact goes even deeper than economic statistics. Powell shares a touching memory: "As we were driving away [from her parents' 50th class reunion], my dad said, 'You know, this was the most fun we ever had in our lives.'" This experience fuels her passion for the stadium.  "And I want that same experience for our students today. That's what I love about our stadium and our collegiate atmosphere here. I want students to look back on their experience and say, ‘this is the greatest time of my life.’" 

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At Wesleyan, we have a rich history and a -sized reputation. As stewards of the University, it is our responsibility to build a future as bright as our past.