Willamette University

Finding Tufton Beamish

We first met Tufton Beamish ’61 via the 1958 Wallulah. Among the Baxter Hall men on p. 183, the elusive young undergraduate is listed as “not pictured.” But people seemed to know who he was. He apparently received mail on campus and was enrolled in classes.

He had a funny habit of not showing up for anything, though.

The trouble was that Beamish never really existed. He’s become something of a Willamette legend and has resurfaced through the years, in reunion class anecdotes and “I remember when” conversations. He has also provided many a laugh for those of us in the Office of Alumni Relations and others who know about his story.

So far as we can tell — and we write this with the understanding that we will probably be corrected — Beamish ’61 was the brainchild of a group of fraternity men in the late 1950s. The men fabricated the new “pledge” to use as leverage to boost recruitment efforts, and initially they imagined that Beamish would only exist within Greek walls.

Lewey Bright ’61 recalls the events. “Tufton, so it went, had spent a year at Oxford University, was a top notch player in some sport or other — I’ve forgotten which — and had close to a four-point GPA. It was important to get him before the rival fraternities did.”

But someone added Beamish to the chapel attendance list (at the time chapel attendance was mandatory and carefully recorded), enrolled him in several campus organizations and signed him up for classes. There is even a rumor that his name was called in error at graduation. But as his classmates left Willamette, so did his story.

Fast-forward to 2010. In the last issue of The Scene, we included an April Fool’s Day class note for Beamish, about whom we had known vaguely (see Spring 2010, p. 38). We soon received an incredible string of responses from eagle-eyed readers who had their own recollections; the first came from Mike Durrell ’64, who decided to counter with his own creative class note.

Others followed up. Bright continued his response with an imaginary obituary for Beamish, whose highlights included espionage (“He has been rumored to have helped design the movie set where America’s astronauts allegedly walked on the moon...”) and TV acting (“There is also some evidence that he played the role of a missing character on the Seinfeld show.”).

Dusty Rhodes ’61 recalled the year Beamish was placed on social probation for not attending chapel.

The saga continues. We’ll keep our eyes out for Beamish, even if we still can’t create an official alumni record for him. Who knows — maybe he’ll show up at Reunion Weekend this year.



There are no confirmed images of Beamish, but anonymous sources suggested this image.

Tufton Beamish ’61

I was delighted to see the update about Tufton Beamish in the spring edition of The Scene. I wrote an employee newsletter when I worked for United Airlines at Portland, and when Tufton transferred to PDX from Montpelier, Ver., in the late 1980s, I wrote a couple of columns about him.

He was still single at the time and he rented a residential caboose at the Railroad Museum on the premises of Oaks Park in Portland so he could be near a roller rink. Tufton competed in singles roller dance events and despite his relative lack of success in competitions he loved the sport. Tufton worked the late swing shift so he could spend his mornings roller skating and when he was furloughed in the early 1990s he transferred to Duluth…

— Mike Durrel ’64