By JIM ZBICK
Name identity is big business today, evidenced by the new sports stadiums that have risen up in the last decade bearing the names of giant financial institutions.
The thousands of times fans see a name in print or hear it spoken is considered good business in the competitive world of advertising.
Many older college stadiums were named for persons who influenced that university. A good example is at Penn State, where the stadium wasn't named for the animal, but for James A. Beaver, a Perry County native. As president of the university's board of trustees, Beaver was instrumental in getting state funds to improve Penn State's intercollegiate football field, a deed which would lead to the naming of the facility. Today, a commemorative stone tablet bearing his name is located at the southeast corner of the massive 107,000-seat stadium.
Beaver's field leadership as a Civil War officer would make Penn State coaching legend Joe Paterno proud. One of four generals who went on to serve as governor of Pennsylvania, he was wounded five times, the most serious coming at the Battle of Reams Station when a bullet went through his right thigh, shattering the bone and requiring amputation just below the hip. The amputation was so high that he could not be fitted with a prosthetic and he had to rely on crutches to move about for the rest of his life.
The crutches became a part of his persona. When asked how he preferred to be addressed, he would slap his stump and reply " 'General,' because that office cost me the most."
After the war, Beaver led an active business and civic life, leading a law practice in Centre County. He played a pivotal role in founding the state and local chapters of the Young Men's Christian Association, more commonly known as the YMCA.
Realizing his importance as a civic and political leader, a war hero and his prominence in any affairs regarding God and country, Tamaqua officials brought Beaver in to speak on behalf of a YMCA fundraiser in the fall of 1910. The goal was to raise $30,000 in 10 days.
Beaver had visited Tamaqua 24 years earlier during his run for the governor's seat.
For the YMCA event, he was seated at the head table in the Odd Fellow's Hall along with James Turk, the former superintendent of the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad.
"I served four years as governor of the state whereas I have labored for over 40 years in this present work," Beaver told the crowd of about 100 people. "There should be no question about the raising of $30,000 in Tamaqua in 10 days, and I am confident that double the amount could be raised in five days if the proper spirit is shown.
"Think of the amount of pleasure and benefit that would be derived by the young men of Tamaqua – morally, mentally, physically, socially, spiritually and financially. You men who will lend your efforts to this movement will be doing for your fellow man, not only for today, but of the generations to come, which they will never be able to repay and your praises will be sung long after you would otherwise have sunk into oblivion."
Beaver called the YMCA a "worthy duty which will benefit not only yourself but your children."
"A self-centered life is not worth living," Beaver told the audience. "I call you to do your share and the railroad will quickly do its share to raise a monument to your memory that will stand for centuries to come."
Beaver spoke of the town's reputation.
"Tamaqua, a town that is considered to be one of the fastest growing in the state, one that people in other parts of, not only this state but other states as well, are hearing of it being an active, wide-awake town. Are you going to let them change their opinion of your good old town, by having this movement, which as I said before is for your personal gain, fail?
NO, I am sure you are not going to let this old town – wherein you reside – make a failure of this. You have too much pride for I can see it shining on the countenance of the men gathered about this banquet board. Think this matter over – sleep over it, pray over it and it is done," he said.
Contributions piled in during the final days of the campaign, even from prominent outside sources like John Wanamaker, the well-respected and world renown Philadelphia merchant, religious leader, civic and political figure who some considered to be the father of modern advertising.
On Nov. 14, the Courier announced that the building of a new YMCA was assured. At midnight on Saturday, bells tolled and whistles blew, announcing that the project had met with success.
James Beaver died in 1914, four years after his inspiring speech to promote a new YMCA in Tamaqua.