​​‘Jack Breslin Distinguished Staff Award’ Goes to Spartan Super-Fan​

Michigan State University’s 47th annual Jack Breslin and Ruth Jameyson Awards program will take place May 13, 2024, at the Kellogg Center.

Spartan for life

The home office of Ken Beer (’92, Journalism) is a veritable shrine of Spartan memorabilia — serving as a green and white backdrop to all his video conference calls. He became a board member of the Northern Michigan-based Tip of the Mitt Spartans alumni club after he moved to Petoskey in 2019. He’s rumored to have “once bested MSU basketball great Steve Smith at a game of arcade basketball at the Meridian Mall in the early 1990s.” This has, however, been soundly debunked; sources report the score was 68-8 in favor of Smith.

Now, this ComArtSci fiscal officer and administrative associate is a recipient of one of the most prestigious honors conferred to MSU employees: the Jack Breslin Distinguished Staff Award.

Colleagues presented Beer with the news at a gathering April 12 — an occurrence which left him feeling rather surprised.

“I look around at my colleagues in the college and I think they’re definitely worthy of this award,” Beer said. “I’m just very humbled and honored that my peers nominated me.”

In 2002, after a decade in journalism, Beer returned to his alma mater and began an entirely new career. Since 2011, he’s been at ComArtSci, where he oversees the budget and financial activities in the Dean’s office as well as administration of system and building security.

ComArtSci’s seven fiscal officers collectively oversee a portfolio of more than $40M in annual budget. They also are the direct liaison with department leadership for all faculty and graduate assistant hiring activities. In a given year, the financial team can initiate and/or approve more than 14,500 HR and financial transactions.

Beer said his favorite things about this job are helping people find solutions to problems and mentoring newcomers. He also said his job never gets old because there’s something to learn every year — new systems, updates and colleagues that keep him engaged with his work. In 2019, Beer approached his director, Scott Gascon, and college leadership about the possibility of performing his duties remotely (you know, before it was cool.) After getting the green light, he and his family moved back to his hometown where he had hoped to retire one day.

“That’s another thing that I’m just so appreciative and thankful for,” Beer said. “That I would be nominated for such an award like the Jack Breslin. I’m not physically in person every day, but I think I’ve been able to interact personally every day.”

When Beer returns to campus — which he does monthly — he likes to go for walks along the Red Cedar River or Grand River Avenue with his team. If he’s in town during a home sporting event, this Spartan fan is likely to attend ... and of course, he likes stopping by MSU’s legendary Dairy Store.

“It has been my pleasure to work with Ken for the past 13 years and I can honestly say that I have never worked with a more well-rounded colleague deserving of an award such as this,” said Gascon. “Ken’s knowledge, attitude and work ethic are unmatched, and this is evident with how he is respected and admired by his colleagues. He is an all-around great employee, colleague and person that we are fortunate to have in ComArtSci.”

Ever the team-player, Beer felt it was important to acknowledge a few of his colleagues: Scott Gascon, Carol McDonald, Kelsey Pink, Amy Klapko and Alicia Shewchuk. “Even though my name is on the award this year, I feel like it’s more of a team award because I wouldn’t have been nominated if it weren’t for my colleagues, my coworkers ... we all push each other to do well.”

And that might be the most Ken Beer thing we’ve ever heard. Congratulations, Ken — and GO GREEN!


— Jessica Mussell


About the Jack Breslin Distinguished Staff Award:

The award is named in honor of Jack Breslin, who served Michigan State University as a student leader, honored athlete, top administrator and steadfast advocate. Jack was the personification of the “Spartan Spirit.” His strong and innovative leadership played a pivotal role in MSU’s growth and development as the nation’s premier land grant institution. This award is presented annually to six university support staff members selected by the Jack Breslin Distinguished Staff Award Selection Committee from all nominations received. Recipients receive a $2500 award and are recognized with a citation.