Joshua T. Beck was associate professor of marketing and Judy and Hugh Oliphant Research Scholar at the Lundquist College of Business. He was a leader in his community and a great friend to many.
Josh suffered a brain injury in December 2022, resulting from an accident at home. In spite of life-saving efforts by his husband Aaron and months of therapies prompted by his family, Josh passed away on April 6, 2023, at the age of 37.
A California native, Josh earned his PhD in 2014 from the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington. He joined the faculty at the University of Cincinnati, followed by the University of Oregon in 2015. Josh met his husband Aaron Smith in Seattle and cherished time spent with his family.
“Although he grew up in sunny weather, Josh loved the rain and enjoyed cooler weather while hiking among the trees and taking his dogs to run along the Oregon Coast,” said his friend and colleague Conor Henderson, associate professor of marketing and Judy and Hugh Oliphant Research Scholar at the Lundquist College of Business.
Josh’s work earned him many awards, including being named Marketing Science Institute’s Young Scholar for 2021, and the college’s most prestigious academic honor, the Stewart Distinguished Faculty Award. In addition to multiple awards for his research, Josh was also recognized for his work as a reviewer and for his teaching during his career. His research has been published in the Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Marketing, and Journal of Consumer Psychology, among others.
“I met Josh as a fellow PhD student at UW, and we quickly bonded over our shared curiosity and hunger for learning,” Henderson said. “We worked together on many research projects. Most failed. A few were successful. All were very fun to work on.”
Henderson recalled how Beck enthusiastically started or joined several research projects with a number of faculty and PhD students.
“He had high expectations and many ideas for how to reach the level of quality,” Henderson explained. “Our department’s research output in leading journals increased dramatically after he arrived. He helped cofound the Northwest Marketing Research Symposium, which will be named after him in his honor. There is great admiration and respect for Josh across marketing departments in the Northwest.”
For those lucky enough to collaborate with him, Josh also made working at the UO a lot of fun.
“We often would happily spend parts of weekends and holidays on a relatively empty fourth floor of Lillis talking to each other about our projects, our lives, and current events,” Henderson said. “Even on projects we were not collaborating on, we knew the details of each other’s work and debated the best paths forward. Personally, he was extremely generous and dependable.”
Josh’s energy extended to his mentorship of students and his service to the field, said his friend and colleague, assistant professor of marketing Noelle Nelson.
“He had an action-oriented mindset and truly left his mark on everything he touched,” she said. “Aside from the many accolades his research, mentorship, and service have earned, Josh was an incredibly supportive collaborator and friend to so many in our field.”
He also cared very much about our student community.
“He believed a good education is empowering and wanted to empower all his students,” Henderson said, adding that Beck was passionate about finding paths forward for students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. “Josh was proud to be gay and felt a responsibility to support LGBTQ students who might feel bolstered by his career success and presence in the business school.”
One of those students is Frank Zhang ’22, now strategy and transactions associate at Grant Thornton.
“When Josh asked if I was interested in starting an LGBTQ+ club at the Lundquist College, I readily agreed,” he said. “It was reassuring to see a professor advocating to build a community for those who are traditionally marginalized. Although off to a bumpy start, Josh was one of the two advisors who consistently dedicated their time and provided immense support to Out Leaders in Business. We faced many challenges—both expected and unexpected in starting a new group—and celebrated many wins, and brought our ideas into fruition in no time. Within a year, Out Leaders had grown into a community of LGBTQ+ students, professors, and staff who shared the common, yet diverse interest of business education and as a career.”
Zhang also worked at the Lundquist College as a student, and Beck never failed to smile and say hello each and every time their paths crossed—a practice for which Josh became known. Once Josh made a connection with you, he made an effort to keep that connection going.
“Our first formal interaction was via his market research class, where I always enjoyed his lessons,” Zhang recalled. “I became even more curious as a marketing student and explored more of this field. It’s an understatement to say that Josh was an intelligent professor and researcher. Josh touched the lives of many, I’m sure, including mine.”
Said Henderson, about his colleague and friend, “Josh had a sharp wit and infectious laugh. Even arguments were fun. So when Josh joined our department at UO, I knew he would elevate us in several ways—and he has.”
In lieu of sending flowers, the family requests a donation to support marketing PhD students in the Lundquist College or to LGBTQ groups on campus as a way to honor Josh, as these two causes are ones Josh cared about deeply. You can make such a donation via the UO Foundation's giving portal and designate “Josh Beck” under the section “My Gift is a Tribute.”
—AnneMarie Knepper-Sjoblom ’05, Lundquist College Communications