When Bob Beall can’t be found on the premises of his Mr. Rooter franchise in Pittsburgh, Pa., he can surely be found close to a computer screen.
That’s because Beall, at age 41, is pursuing an online college degree in business. Now halfway through his studies with the University of Phoenix, Beall admits it hasn’t been easy. Legally blind since birth, he’s always been one to persevere. He says his determination to earn a degree is motivated by a greater incentive: self-empowerment and hopes of inspiring others.
“I want to be an example to my kids,” he says. “I want to show them how education can be a gift to them. I didn’t feel like I could tell my kids to do something I didn’t do myself.” With thick glasses, face close to the computer, Beall compensates for his visual impairment. He has always turned disadvantage into advantage. He never believed anything would keep him from striving toward a goal. “It may take me a bit longer to read and type, but I just do it,” Beall says. “I’ve always been persistent.”
Despite his visual impairment, Beall followed the footsteps of his father, starting a career as a plumber in 1985 in Cleveland, Ohio. He moved to Pittsburgh, Pa., when a business opportunity presented itself. In 2001, he purchased his Mr. Rooter franchise. Today, he runs the business with 50 employees and $8 million in sales.
Education plays a big role in the Beall family. He and his wife, Carol, have three adopted children, now pre-teens: J.P., Megan and Alex. They first took them into their care as infant foster children. Carol, a partner in the business but now a stay-at-home mom, has four adult children and five grandchildren. Her oldest son is a teacher in North Carolina with two grandchildren, Maureen and Audrey. Her youngest son, Brian, works at Mr. Rooter while attending the local plumbing trade school, with the vision of possibly becoming an integral part of Mr. Rooter some day.
Beall’s determination to complete his degree has already encouraged Megan to inquire about the educational requirements for becoming a teacher. “I think if you’re willing to study, you can do anything.” Beall says.
The children race their father to the computer when his grades come through. His nine A’s and two B’s have brought hurrahs from his cheering squad. “The kids get almost more excited than I do,” Beall laughs.
One difficulty during the past year of study has been the time consumed by course work. Completing the class work takes 15 to 20 hours a week, most of it evenings and weekends, as Beall runs his Mr. Rooter franchise full-time. But neither has it been easy for Beall to return to school after last studying a textbook in 1985, when graduating from high school in Geneva, Ohio.
“After being away from a classroom, even if now the classroom has changed dimensions as it’s in cyberspace, it’s taken some readjustment,” Beall says. Throughout, he has maintained his determination. “I don’t think pursuit of an advanced education is ever a wrong choice,” he says.
After ten years as a business owner, Beall believes furthering his education has become a necessity. He decided an online course was best for him. “One of the biggest advantages of an online program is the flexibility of the schedule,” he says. “I can attest that attending a ‘virtual classroom’ would work best for anyone with a busy schedule.”
Business degree online programs vary from one institution to the other. Several colleges and universities offer flexible schedules from which their students can choose. One reason he chose the University of Phoenix is that students enroll in classes that last five to six weeks. That enables him to focus on one subject at a time.
Although he already runs a successful business, Beall is convinced the degree will help him in many ways. Already growing his skill in business management, he’s bringing new knowledge to areas of leadership, communication, organization and teamwork. He’s sure all of that will bring him even greater prosperity and satisfaction.