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Vivian Beckley, a blueprint for success

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Maybe it’s a common misconception, but everyone tends to think interesting people only exist in Hollywood shows in the form of celebrities and documentary subjects seen on Vice. In reality however, you can find them right next to you on the bus. Vivian E. Beckley is such a person; she is a communications instructor at the Downtown Milwaukee campus who is set to retire in May. Before that however, she had the time to sit down and have a conversation with the MATC Times.



Photo by Asiya A. Mohamed
After 26 years, soon-to-be-retiring, communications instructor Vivian Beckley’s story inspires all.

Beckley is a Milwaukee native, and started out working for the American Can Company when she was 17. In 1953 she graduated from North Division High School. Working third shift allowed her to work her way through school and attend MATC from 1967 to 1969 and later transfer to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee,  graduating in 1972 with a Bachelor’s of Science in English. She worked her way through school like most students at MATC, and became the first African-American inspector for American Can. In 1984 her education career began when she was hired by Milwaukee Public Schools as a teacher of Language Arts and Social Studies to seventh and eighth graders.

She recalls this time fondly, and liked it so much she worked for MPS for 17 years, and even got her master’s in education in 1990. By the end of her run with MPS and her retirement in 2000, she was assistant principal at her school. All the while she worked part time at MATC, as she needed an extra job for her family.

She has been with MATC for 26 years, and is always impressed with the hardworking night students.

Beckley also sang praise of fellow instructors at MATC, such as Anita Thompson, an instructor back when she had first started out, now retired, who took her under her wing and was her mentor, taught her how to get along with others.

After her retirement, Beckley plans to keep volunteering at Lewis and Tom Community Center, and get back into golfing. She looks forward to a well-deserved break.

“I’ll be 84 this year, that’s kind of old, don’t you think?” she tells me, as she reminisced on her journey.

She will miss being busy, as she loves to have things to do, and does not want to, “ just watch TV, getting fat,” she said sternly, and although she will have the occasional drink, she is determined to keep healthy and enjoy her retirement.

Beckley’s parting advice to all students: Attendance is always important. Go to school on time, and keep your behavior and attitude positive.

She proudly exclaims, “I graduated from here, you can too.”

She stressed how she hoped MATC keeps the programs so helpful to students, and hoped all students took her advice to heart.

“Just be something,” she said, “be somebody. If you start something, be sure to finish it.”

Beckley’s happy for herself, satisfied with what she has accomplished and proud of coming to MATC and leaving happy. If her story sounds familiar it may be because so many of us work a third shift, or a day job, and come to school part time. Many of us are working just like Beckley back in 1953 toward a better future. Beckley’s story is testament of the ultimate goal to reach, a lesson to anyone working toward success. She made it, and we definitely can too.

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Vivian Beckley, a blueprint for success