BY MIKE LEONARD
Ken and Audrey Beckley were still basking in the golden glow of Ken’s 50th Indiana University alumni reunion in June 2012 when Ken blurted out what he was thinking.
“It was the Sunday morning after the reunion and I said, ‘You know, I could live in Bloomington,’” Ken recalls. “And my wife just said, ‘I could too.’ So just like that, we made our plans, sold our home in Indianapolis, and came here in May 2013. We love, love, love it.”
Beckley sported one of the more recognizable faces in town long before he decided to become a permanent resident. Based on the success of NBC’s national news broadcast, The Huntley-Brinkley Report, in 1970, Indianapolis affiliate WFBM (now WRTV) paired Beckley with Howard Caldwell to create one of the first local co-anchor teams in the market. He became a household name and face but stepped away in 1977. “I left solely because I’d become a weekend father,” he says. “I worked noon-to-12:30 a.m. and the children would be in bed by the time I got home, and then up early for school. By the end of 1976 I decided I didn’t want to be that guy.”
He moved on to be IUPUI’s first director of university relations for seven years and thoroughly enjoyed that job as well, he says. “Then, out of the blue, the stepson of H.H. Gregg approached me. We had been neighbors.” That led to an 18-year affiliation with the Indianapolis-based consumer electronics and home appliances company, which grew from seven stores and $28 million in sales when he started to 43 stores and more than $500 million in sales when he retired in 2001 as executive vice president and spokesperson for the company. Beckley now contributes that same, affable television persona to television commercials for Indiana Members Credit Union.
The Indiana Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Fame member already knew Bloomington quite well, not only from his undergraduate days at IU but as president and CEO of the IU Alumni Association from 2002-07. While he says he loved his life in retirement in Indianapolis, the allure of Bloomington offered more. “It’s so easy for a person to allow his mind to stop out, to drop out,” he notes. Not here. “Bloomington abounds in culture, arts, entertainment, restaurants, churches, volunteer activities. Festivals. A wonderful Farmers’ Market. We feel like kids in a candy store.”