Videos & Speeches

Madam President, last Sunday I was at a funeral service in Manhattan, KS, because Kansas lost one of its greatest philanthropists and education advocates when Marianna Kistler Beach passed away on November 1, 2014.

Marianna and her late husband Ross Beach--who passed away in 2010--were residents of my hometown of Hays, Kansas, for more than 60 years before moving to Lawrence. This devoted couple was well known and well loved for their acts of service and kindness to others. Because of Marianna and Ross Beach, numerous Kansans have been inspired through the arts, and individuals with disabilities and their families have lived healthier, more productive lives.

Marianna was born on November 24, 1919, in Lincoln, KansaS, and Marianna learned the importance of empowerment through education at a young age from her parents. Elmer and Myrtle Kistler moved their family from Lincoln--including their 15-year-old daughter Marianna--to Manhattan, Kansas, in 1934 in order to give their children the opportunity for a college education during the Great Depression. Marianna graduated from Manhattan High School and Kansas State University, where she was a member of Pi Beta Phi, Sigma Phi Journalism Honorary, and Mortar Board.

Marianna married Ross--whom she always called Rossie--in 1941, and they were devoted to each other for 69 years until his death in 2010.

Ross Beach was a pioneer in banking, radio and television, and oil and gas, and Marianna was a support system behind all that success. Ross was the president of Kansas National Gas Company and chairman of the board of the Douglas County Bank, and with Marianna by his side Ross created economic opportunities for many Kansans. But the Beaches' business success was overshadowed by Ross and Marianna's generosity.

Marianna Beach worked hard to make certain education and the arts would be a priority of Kansans. She and her husband assisted with the formation of the Beach-Schmidt Performing Arts Center and the Sternberg Museum of Natural History at Fort Hays State University. Marianna was a member of the Mid-America Arts Alliance, president of the Hays Arts Council, and wrote a column on art and city beautification for the Hays Daily News for more than 20 years.

For the Beaches' 50th wedding anniversary, Marianna convinced her husband to establish the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art on the campus of Kansas State University to ensure that art is accessible to all Kansans. My wife Robba and I have had the honor to serve on the board of visitors of this art museum that bears their name. We are able to witness firsthand the positive consequences of the passion and commitment Ross and Marianna had for culture and for the arts in our state.

Marianna's priorities were guided by a belief in the value of each individual, which was illustrated by her lifelong commitment to supporting and uplifting individuals with special needs. Supported by her husband, Marianna worked tirelessly to maximize the potential of handicapped individuals, serving on the President's Committee on Mental Retardation from 1969 to 1975. She was also actively involved at the local level. She did everything personally. In fact, the Beach Center on Disability at the University of Kansas is named in her honor. The research done there focuses on disability policy, employment, family support, and early childhood services.

The Beaches' level of generosity will truly live on for generations to come.

Despite their stature in our community and state, Marianna and Ross Beach always treated every person they encountered with respect and dignity. As a young newlywed couple starting a new life in Hays, the first invitation Robba and I received was to come to Ross and Marianna's home for dinner. There was never a more gracious, caring couple than the Beaches, who wanted to make sure everyone was included.

For a large portion of my life, I joined Ross and other businessmen and professionals for lunch at The Roundtable. While there was a lot of talk about sports and politics, I learned a lot about life by listening to Mr. Beach. My friendship with Ross Beach certainly opened doors for me in business and politics, but more importantly, it gave me the confidence to realize that this small-town Kansas kid could one day be able to serve here with my colleagues in the Senate.

While my family and I are saddened by the death of Marianna Beach, we take comfort knowing that the legacy of the Beach family will endure far beyond our generation. While Marianna and Ross Beach donated their talents and treasure, it is their caring nature and generous souls that I and many others will miss the most.

Marianna was loved by all who knew her but especially by her family. I extend my heartfelt sympathies to her daughters Mary, Terry, and Jane, as well as her brother Lee, sister Janet, and eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. I know you loved your mother, grandmother, and sister dearly, and she will be greatly missed. I hope you find comfort in knowing that she and Ross are united in their Heavenly home.

We are told that to whom much is given, much is expected. Ross and Marianna Beach more than fulfilled any expectations. I am thankful for having the good fortune of knowing them for more than 40 years.

God bless Marianna and Ross Beach for their life together and let them be a role model for all of us.