Beckfield College exemplifies the growth of Tristate educational institutions that adjust to the market: give students the education and career development they need, make it convenient and affordable. And add another ingredient: a mission that always places students first.

The man behind that mission is founder and President Dr. Harry L. Beck, Ed.D. With nearly 50 years experience in higher and adult education, he founded the college in 1984. Located in Florence, Ky., the private college has a six-acre campus and two main buildings.

Current enrollment is more than 520 students. It offers bachelor and associate degrees along with certification in some areas. The main program areas are business administration, computer networking, medical office technology, nursing and paralegal studies. The college expects new accreditation for some programs to be awarded this summer.

Beckfield offers morning, evening and Saturday classes featuring instructors who have practical, real-world experience in their fields. In the Jump Start Program, students who have completed their junior year in high school can attend one class per quarter, one night a week, and earn up to 16 credit hours of college credit.

Beck earned his bachelor's degree in English at Thomas More College, then a master's at Xavier University and his doctorate in higher and adult education at the University of Kentucky. His experience includes financial aid and placement services, and he has served in numerous education associations, including as president of the Kentucky Association of Career Colleges and Schools.

But it was starting out in a small college that made a simple but lasting impression: "They took an interest in me." And that's the foundation of his philosophy at Beckfield College: personalized attention. Dr. Beck takes pride in knowing the names of all the students, and expects staff to do the same. He's the kind of man who waits for a reply when he asks, "How are you doing?"

"Our philosophy states that students come first and everybody on the payroll is paid to support them," reads Dr. Beck's administration summary. "Students must feel that if they have a problem or are dissatisfied with some aspect of our school, they know they can come to faculty or staff and work out solutions without fear of retribution."

It concerns him that there's so much pressure on young people to go to college, but many aren't prepared. Many feel lost at bigger schools, he observes. More than half of Beckfield's students attended another institution of higher education, but many got little help in finding a career path, he says. At Beckfield College, though, the focus is on student success: retention, graduation and job placement. "For us, it's the students, stupid," Dr. Beck says with a grin.

He believes in the value of continuing education, to individuals and organizations. One of his favorite quotes: "In organizational life, it's all about learning to change. If you're not learning and not adapting to change, you're dead"”and you just don't know it."