If nothing else, he saves the lives of children
When Gary Beu was a child trick-or-treating in Elgin, he carried with him a little orange box for UNICEF. Along with the candy he hoped to get from each house, he tried to collect donations for the United Nations Children's Fund, a memory he recalled as an adult contemplating volunteer activity.
"I can remember recognizing that, as a kid, through that trick-or-treating program, I was doing something good for other kids," Beu said. "That warm feeling, if you will, has carried with me now for 50-plus more years."
Beu served on the board of directors for the Midwest Regional Office of the US Fund for UNICEF for 20 years, capping his two decades of leadership at the end of December.
Beu was recently honored at the Message of Hope Gala recognizing his service. And while he decided to end his time on the board, Beu plans to continue as an "ardent supporter and loyal contributor" for the rest of his life.
UNICEF is known for its activity in emergencies, but the organization also works every day in underdeveloped and undeveloped countries, running education-based programs for children as well as lifesaving interventions.
It's the sustained support services from UNICEF, particularly through education, that make Beu call himself the organization's biggest fan.
Looking at his blessed life — a 40-year marriage, a loving family, a successful career in human resources and operational management — Beu said his work with UNICEF is a way to give back or pay it forward. But as much as that work benefits others, Beu is clear about the positive effect it has on his own life as well.
Sure, he likes to think the work he has done through his job is important and makes a difference, but of course there are always some nights, looking back, when Beu felt like there was nothing particularly significant or meaningful to his day.
"However, I've always been able, at the end of those days, to focus on the fact that for the last 20 years I have, if nothing else, I saved the life of a child," Beu said. "And I saved the life of a child because I have been working on behalf of UNICEF."
Over the years, Beu has shared his time, his talent and his treasure with the organization he admires so much, taking vicarious credit for their lifesaving work abroad.
The Elgin man's commitment to young people goes beyond his work with the international humanitarian organization. For 10 of his 32 years with Arthur Andersen — a Chicago-based auditing, tax and consulting firm — he worked primarily on college campuses recruiting young minds for the business.
He also dedicates his volunteer time to Chicago Scholars, an organization that provides mentoring and support to students with high potential from under-resourced communities to help them find, apply to and graduate from the college of their choice.
"I've always had an interest in organizations that focus their attention on improving the lives of children and young people," Beu said. "Whether it's internationally through UNICEF or more locally with a program like Chicago Scholars, that's the type of program mission that resonates with me."
Beu plans to dedicate even more time to Chicago Scholars now that he has passed on his UNICEF board duties that, over the years, have included serving as chairman and working on a nominating committee to identify new board members.
Beu also continues his daily train ride from Elgin to Chicago, working at West Monroe Partners, a consultancy firm formed by several former Arthur Andersen employees. And he is doing career coaching at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University — another display of his commitment to the power of education.
"We all have interests, we all have different things that matter to us," Beu said. "This is one of those that matters to me."
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