A Long-lasting Connection to Silliman University
The 13 years that George and Janice Beran spent at Silliman University in the Philippines were filled with the rewards of teaching, raising their young children, and finding fellowship with colleagues and students. “We had a wonderful life in the Philippines,” Jan Beran recalled in a recent interview. “God blessed us.” The couple had applied to be missionaries through the Presbyterian Church, and when Silliman requested an educator who could teach microbiology, they responded to the call.
The Berans moved to the Philippines in 1960. George taught courses in microbiology and agricultural sciences at Silliman and started a public health laboratory whose work stopped a human cholera epidemic. The lab eventually produced a quarter of million doses of a dog rabies vaccine; vaccinating that many dogs which meant there were no more human rabies deaths in the province. For this significant accomplishment, George was made an “Adopted Son of the Province,” the first time this honor was accorded to anyone. Jan taught physical education; directed Silliman’s intramural athletics program; coached sports teams; and wrote a textbook, Physical Activities for the Filipina, with her colleague, Sofia Ravello, which became a best-selling text and went through several printings. George and Jan’s older two children graduated from Silliman High School and their third child, born in the Philippines, had his schooling through grade 4 in Silliman University Elementary.
Jan said she and her husband found Filipinos to be “warm, loving, and a lot of fun,” and those traits made it easy to develop friendships on the Silliman campus and beyond. “We often hosted Sunday evening youth fellowship in our home, and we grew quite close to our students,” she said. “We also started a Bible fellowship for pedicab drivers and household workers. We were active in churches in the province and did lay preaching. And, hopefully, through our lives and relationships, we showed our Christian faith.” They were deeply impressed by the caliber of students at Silliman, a sense that has been reinforced through continuing contact with former students, return visits to Silliman, and attendance at Tipon, the biennial gathering of Silliman alumni in North America. “I find Silliman graduates have a high standard of moral integrity,” Jan said.
The Berans returned to the United States in 1973 and accepted faculty positions at Iowa State University, but their ties to Silliman remained strong. In the 1990s, they began talking with their former faculty colleague Pat Magdamo, who had joined the staff of the United Board, about ways to support Silliman. Dr. Magdamo stressed the need for faculty development. In 1996, the Berans set up an endowment that would offer support to Silliman faculty of divinity studies, Biblical studies, religion, and philosophy because these educators seldom had access to funding to pursue further studies, take leave to develop a new curriculum or write a book, or engage in other forms of professional development.
For more than 20 years, the Berans’ endowment has been a testament to their belief in the talents, dreams, and faith of faculty members of Silliman University. The United Board shares their commitment to faculty development and has been honored to steward their endowment.