With multiple college degrees and more than 40 years of experience as a human resources leader, you could say Richard Beyer is a lifelong learner.
In fact, the long-time Kansan - at age 69 – just received his fifth college degree, a PhD in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from Roosevelt University, on Dec. 13.
“I had to run pretty fast to keep up with today’s students and the technology,” said Beyer, who actually has done much of that throughout his life.
An HR professional since 1972, Beyer has navigated many mergers in the Missouri, Kanas and Iowa regions as Columbia Union National Bank and Trust Co. evolved into First Union National Bank and Trust in Kansas City, then Centerre Bank NA, then Boatmen’s Bank NA, then NationsBank NA, and now Bank of America.
During his banking career, he also completed a bachelor’s degree in Business, an MBA and two other master’s degrees in counseling and guidance and industrial and organizational psychology.
He then led the integration of workforce systems for the state of Kansas as the governor’s secretary of human resources from 1999-2003, coordinating the state’s workforce development technology with many other U.S. states.
He later also served as an HR professional for JE Dunn Construction in Kansas City, where he earned Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP) credentials.
“I knew a PhD in Industrial and Organizational Psychology could help make me more proficient as an HR professional, but given my age, I wasn’t sure how well I’d be accepted,” said Beyer, who began the Roosevelt PhD program in 2016.
Nicholas Baldwin, clinical assistant professor of psychology in Roosevelt’s Industrial and Organizational Psychology Program and a 32-year-old PhD student with Beyer, said he was surprised how well his elder colleague fit in.
“He brought a wealth of experience to our classes, and was always eager to learn as much as possible,” said Baldwin of Beyer. “He was humble and kind. I went to him for advice a number of times – and I always felt like I was going to a friend.”
The experience gratified Beyer, who completed a major study and dissertation on The Positive Impacts of Equitable Pay on Outcomes that Matter to Employers.
Beyer and Roosevelt Professor of Industrial and Organizational Psychology Adrian Thomas will present elements of the study at the 2020 Annual Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology Conference in Texas. Beyer also co-wrote a paper with Thomas and colleague Travis Hensersky about the Pay Gap published in Volume 19 of the Organizational Psychology Journal in 2019.
“Throughout my life, I’ve always liked to be with organizations that are innovative and evolving, and Roosevelt’s Industrial and Organizational Psychology Program certainly has been a positive experience and environment,” said Beyer.
With his PhD in hand, Beyer has now fulfilled a dream he has had since his mother, a psychiatric nurse, and his father, a loan executive, told him as a young man about the effectiveness one could have by combining psychology with business practice.
So is this the final frontier for the new Roosevelt graduate?
“I’ve always subscribed to the philosophy that every milestone achieved is just the next stepping stone forward,” said Beyer, who today leads his own HR consulting firm, Integritas, LLC in Kansas City, and is also an adjunct professor in Roosevelt’s Industrial and Organizational Psychology Program.
“All I’ve learned in the program will equip me to be a better HR manager, instructor, researcher and consultant,” said Beyer, who, before beginning the next stage of his learning journey, has the following message for fellow, older Americans.
“To anyone who thinks they’re too old to go back to school, I say ‘Please reconsider,’” said Beyer.
“Continuous learning is important at any age and the acquired wisdom and attained knowledge of older workers can add great value to the classroom experience.”