Jackie Becker
Values Shared from Generation to Generation

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Jackie Becker

Jackie and her late husband created the Herman D. and Jacqueline L. Becker Award in Political Science to recognize outstanding FAU students who have the same passion for politics, governance and justice that Jackie and her husband shared. They started the award in 1985 and have followed the post-grad activities of many of their award winners with gratification and pride. In addition, Jackie has made plans to add to the fund through her estate, enabling her charitable legacy to grow and help generations of students in the future.

Jackie’s love of politics was first inspired by her mother, who was the second woman in history to graduate from Yale Law School. Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia recruited her to work in his administration to help oust the corrupt Tammany Hall and in 1942 named her a city magistrate. Jackie’s father, a Wall Street lawyer, was also involved in the justice system and presented and won a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Held to a very high standard, Jackie remembers that almost every discussion in her home had to do with right versus wrong. This ethical compass has guided Jackie throughout her years and is one reason she feels so strongly about endowing gifts for future FAU students. “It is our responsibility to pass our values along to the next generation,” she offered. “Through this award my husband and I can encourage participation in causes that need attention, believing as we always have that one person can make a difference.”

A gifted student, Jackie entered Vassar College at the age of 15. She used her musical talent to help raise support for Vassar’s WWII activities. She also had the privilege of visiting Eleanor and President Franklin D. Roosevelt in their home. Jackie graduated from Vassar at the young age of 19. Soon after, she met her husband, Herm, at a Fourth of July party. They married and started a family in his hometown of Terre Haute, Indiana.

Another event was to change Jackie’s life profoundly. She received a call from Jacqueline Kennedy, a fellow Vassar alumna, who asked for help with her husband’s campaign. Jackie agreed immediately and organized a campaign in “anti-Kennedy” territory. Her county’s support of Kennedy was a surprising upset. As a reward, Jackie and Herm were invited to President John Kennedy’s inauguration and heard his speech on the Capitol steps as he said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” When she returned home to Terre Haute, Jackie formed a coalition of women to improve schools, reduce crime, clean up public areas and create recreational programs for children. Called Housewives’ Effort for Local Progress, or HELP, she recruited 1,000 members in two weeks. Together they built parks and swimming pools, addressed blighted areas, improved community health programs and reduced crime.

Kennedy’s words still ring in Jackie’s ears. She has been active in many aspects of life in Boca Raton and remains committed to helping the next generation of FAU students appreciate the importance of civic engagement. Through the bequest she has included in her estate plan, the Beckers will continue to support those who “ask not what their country can do for them,” but instead “what they can do for their country.”

 

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