Richard R. Beeman, the John Welsh Centennial Professor of History Emeritus at Penn, died on September 5 at the age of 74, of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). He was a member of the Penn faculty for 43 years, and had previously served as chair of the history department, associate dean in the School of Arts and Sciences and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
He was born in Seattle and grew up on the beach in Alamitos Bay, Long Beach, California. He earned his BA from the University of California, Berkeley in 1964; his MA from the College of William and Mary in 1965; and his PhD from the University of Chicago in 1968. Before coming to Penn, he served as a Fulbright Professor in the United Kingdom and the Vyvyan Harmsworth Distinguished Professor of American History at Oxford University.
Dr. Beeman was an historian of the American Revolutionary era who wrote eight books and many articles on aspects of America’s political and constitutional history in the 18th and early 19th centuries. His book Plain Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution (2009) won the George Washington Book Prize and the Literary Award of the Philadelphia Athanaeum.
Dr. Beeman was a member of the Board of Trustees of the National Constitution Center and chair of the Constitution Center’s Committee on Programs, Exhibits and Education.
Dr. Beeman received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton and the Huntington Library.
Dr. Beeman is survived by his wife, Mary Cahill; his children, Kristin Dunning, and Joshua, who is a university information security officer at Penn; two grandchildren; his former wife, Pamela Butler; and a brother.
A memorial service will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, September, 26, at the National Constitution Center, 525 Arch St., Philadelphia.