Alumnus of the Year: Joe Beam, walking in the light

Alumnus of the Year: Joe Beam, walking in the light

Joe Beam, speaks into a microphone while holding his Alumnus of the Year award, a bronzed eagle in flight.
Joe Beam is awarded Alumnus of the Year.

At the darkest point of Joe Beam’s life, he couldn’t see his way back to God, but the way was there. All he needed was to take one humble step back into the light. 

Tens of thousands of people across the globe have heard of Joe Beam. They know him through either seeing him on televised talk shows, hearing him from the pulpit, reading one of his books or going through Marriage Helper, a program he founded to salvage broken marriages.

They also know of his past, because it’s from his past and God’s redeeming love that Beam is where he is today and he doesn’t shy away from telling it. He often shares his experiences and God’s saving grace on Faulkner’s campus where he was honored as Alumnus of the Year during the 2022 Marketplace Faith Friday Forums, which annual honors alumni making a difference in the world.

“To all those reading or hearing my story, God can use whoever he wants and it is because of God that I’m alive today,” Beam said. “I don’t take any credit for where He’s brought me. It’s all His doing and I thank Him every day for His blessings, for my family and for restoring my marriage.”

Beam’s story began on the day he decided to attend Alabama Christian College (ACC), now called Faulkner. 

He had initially enrolled in Augusta College to become an actuary. However, even then, God had different plans for Beam and his church minister urged Beam to attend ACC in Montgomery, Alabama instead. 

“That decision would change the whole trajectory of my life,” he said. “Going to ACC was life-altering. I became good friends with my roommate Ray Dutton and everything changed. Everything.”

It was through Ray’s influence that Beam decided to major in Bible. Long-time Bible professor Paul Tarence took Beam under his wing. Tarence was a popular speaker and he had so many speaking engagements that he delegated several to Beam. That’s when Beam realized he had a God-given gift of oration.

More and more churches began inviting Beam to speak during their services and week-long Gospel meetings.

Beam married his wife Alice Hilyer Beam in 1969. A year later, Beam was hired to preach at a church in Georgia. He continued speaking at revivals all across the Southeast and eventually across the nation. 

Joe Beam poses with his wife, Alice Beam in front of a Faulkner backdrop while holding his Alumnus of the Year Award.
Joe Beam and Alice (Hilyer) Beam.

He and Alice moved back to Montgomery where he became the minister at Carriage Hills Church of Christ in 1979. It was there that Beam’s involvement with a single female congregant brought his world crashing to the ground and he was forced to resign. He and Alice divorced. He was stripped of his good reputation, his job and his wife. 

Despised and rejected, Beam moved to Birmingham, but was unable to find work. He became addicted to alcohol and drugs. His addictions bankrupted him financially, physically and spiritually and reduced him to occasional theft in order to get his next high. One night he overdosed. As he lay on the floor, darkness enveloped him and he thought he would never again see the light of day. Once again, God had different plans.

Beam called for help and was taken to a hospital. He was placed in intensive care for three days. His younger brother, Greg Beam took him from the hospital back to South Carolina. He and Beam’s older brother gave Beam a job in their paving company. He headed a crew that seal-coated parking lots.

 “It was one of the messiest jobs I have ever known,” Beam said. “I burned my hands several times on the tar mixture we used, but it was a job and I was making money and I was grateful for it.”

It was then Beam returned to church. He met with a local minister and told him who he was. Despite his soiled past, Beam was invited in. That was his first step back to the Lord. He never thought he would preach again, but at least he was renewing his relationship with Christ. 

After three years of divorce, Beam contacted Alice, who was dating another man and asked if he could come back to her. Alice sought counsel from her family, her church leadership and friends who all told her to let her former husband go. In the end she told Beam, “Yes” and they were remarried. 

“I like to say they counseled her, but I out-prayed them,” Beam quipped. 

None of Alice’s family attended their second wedding in 1987. They had two children and after their second marriage they had another daughter, Kimberly.

If Joe Beam can tell you two things, it would be, first, don’t get caught up in sin – ever. Second, if you do, God can still redeem you. Beam was about to see God’s grace outpoured again.

A friend of Beam’s convinced him to speak in church again.

Joe Beam speaks after receiving his Alumnus of the Year award.
Joe Beam

“I didn’t know what God had in store for me. He had given me such a great opportunity before to bring hundreds of people into the Kingdom through preaching and it was effective, but I messed all that up. I thought I could never go back to doing what I was doing until this friend told me I had a gift to speak and I didn’t have a right to turn it down,” Beam said. “Now through our marriage ministry God is using me to lead more people to Jesus because we’re going where they live, their families, and their marriages. I take no pride in the matter, because I know it all belongs to God’s glory.”

Beam and Alice knew the only way their marriage and relationship could have been restored was with God’s help. They wanted to share that message and help couples rebuild their troubled marriages, so they built a nonprofit in the bonus room above their garage. Little by little their mission grew and they created Marriage Helper, a program that has helped heal relationships for several decades. Marriage Helper is now led by his daughter and CEO, Kimberly Beam Holmes.  In 2020, Beam and his team helped ten thousand marriages through various courses, coaching, and workshops. 

Beam is known internationally as The Marriage Expert, an inspirational speaker and best-selling author. He’s spoken to millions of people worldwide in personal appearances as well as appearances on television and radio, including ABC’s Good Morning America, Focus on the Family, the Montel Williams Show, NBC’s Today Show, and magazines such as People and Better Homes and Gardens.

It all began at ACC where Beam attended from 1967 to 1969. Beam later earned his bachelor’s degree from Southern Christian University, and did graduate studies in Clinical Psychology at the University of Evansville. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Sydney.

He has authored many magazine articles, corporate training programs, and is the author of several books including 21 Irresistible Recipes for Couples, The Art of Falling in Love, Seeing the Unseen: Preparing Yourself for Spiritual Warfare, Getting Past Guilt, Becoming One: Emotionally, Spiritually, and Sexually and The True Heaven.

Beam and his family live in Tennessee where he dedicates most of his time to researching and creating methods to aid couples in crisis. He enjoys traveling across the country to speak at conferences and events and is a regular speaker at Faulkner.

“There’s only one step back to God,” he said. “I wish I had never made that sinful decision, and you don’t want to either. Just don’t. However, if you have sinned, if you’ve messed up, God can still use you. It just takes one step back to Him. He can redeem your mistakes and bring you out of the darkness.”

Joe Beam, Alumnus of the Year, stands with his award with his wife Alice by his side, surrounded by his family.
Joe Beam, Alumnus of the Year, stands with his award with his wife Alice by his side, surrounded by his family.