Brian Wallheimer | April 14, 2017
Timothy Beers might have been able to go anywhere for his undergraduate education. He remembers a recruiter from Yale University offered him a scholarship while visiting Indiana once, but Beers would have still had to pay significant fees and tuition.
He prudently opted for Purdue University, where his father’s employment as a faculty member came with a steep discount on classes. Beers thinks he paid about $400 total for dual degrees in physics and metallurgical engineering.
“I was familiar with Purdue at a very young age. I went to football and basketball games from age 7,” Beers said. “It’s a great school.”
The same practicality that kept Beers in West Lafayette in the 1970s also pushed him toward a degree in metallurgical engineering. Steel plants in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Gary, Indiana, had jobs, and Beers saw a steady future for himself there.
Realizing that he had taken enough physics classes to be close to a dual degree, Beers pursued both tracks. In doing so, he signed up for a course in astrophysics.
Beers had long loved the idea of the cosmos and space travel, and he was often exposed to it growing up in the home of Purdue, which to date has had 23 graduates become astronauts, including the first and last men, respectively, to set foot on the moon, Neil Armstrong and Eugene Cernan. He remembers going through the stacks of newspapers on his Lafayette Journal & Courier delivery route, searching for a perfect, uncreased front page with a full-color picture of astronauts in their “Right Stuff” poses so he could add the photo to a scrap book.