Gifts In Kind

Charley Beaver donates $1.2 million in computer environment equipment

By James J. Lidington

Charley Beaver has one piece of advice about the importance of higher education. A 1976 graduate of Old Dominion with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, Beaver, 62, is senior vice president of Burr Computer Environments Inc., a nationally known construction management engineering firm started by his son Chip in 1988.

“Based upon that, I might say it’s important for your children to get a college education,” said Beaver, tongue firmly in cheek, who previously served as a project manager with Oklahoma Electric Supply, a large union electrical contractor. “More seriously, the lack of a college education will hinder you throughout your life ....”

Beaver, who dropped out of the University of Virginia in early 1961, came to that realization before it was too late. He resumed his education in the fall of 1969 as a nontraditional student, taking night classes at Old Dominion. At the rate of two courses per semester and one each summer, his perseverance finally paid off in December 1975 when he earned his diploma, which he proudly displays on the wall of his Houston office.

And in a recent display of gratitude to his alma mater, the Norfolk native secured from Burr a donation of computer environment equipment valued at more than $1.2 million. The equipment, which will be used in a future campus building, consists of a series of units that maintain electricity during brief power outages, special high-power switches, air-conditioning units made to keep computers cool and dry, and a 6,000-gallon oil storage tank for powering an emergency generator.

“We look forward to using the equipment for a future building project. It will enable us to defer equipment costs and use the savings to promote academic programs in the building,” said Ron Tola, ODU’s director of facilities management. “This is a generous contribution.”

As large firms become more computer-dependent, increased attention is being paid to protecting data systems, the type of service Burr provides, Beaver said.

“Loss of power, a blink of the lights, will kill a computer,” he noted. “Whatever work is being done by the computer is lost when that happens.” Companies can sustain hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses each minute their computers are down because of a power surge or other calamity.

But as Burr literature points out, “The best time to make sure a client’s information technology (IT) infrastructure never goes down is when it is going up.” With that in mind, Burr’s corps of engineers, architects and project managers save clients time and money when they’re building new IT facilities or renovating existing ones, Beaver said. Considering options before construction can permanently affect the client’s goal of uninterrupted computer operations, he added.

Interest in Burr’s work has blossomed. The company, which recently posted an annual business volume of $100 million, employs 25 people in Calgary, Alberta, Canada; Oklahoma City; Kansas City, Mo.; Washington, D.C.; and Seattle. Projects are currently under way in eight U.S. cities, from New York to California.

Most of Burr’s clients are members of the prestigious Fortune 500, and for security reasons they don’t want the company to discuss their data center construction plans.

“I can say, however, that we have a hospital project in the Bahamas that I hope to visit frequently during construction,” Beaver said with a laugh.