The Nyack College campus community was saddened to learn of the recent passing of Ralph Beck as a result of a heart attack. Ralph was a pastoral ministry major studying on the Manhattan campus. The following student profile about Ralph was written by student newspaper editor Jeremy Melendez (NC ’19,) and appeared in the March 2018 issue of The Anchor.
Anchor of the Month: Ralph Beck
I think we all know Ralph. He’s the perfect storm of calmness and assertiveness; lighting up a room with his smile and bringing laughter to his commentary. There’s never a dull moment with Ralph, whether that’s contemplating deep thoughts in the Word or just chatting at lunch. The reality is that we never know just how much a person has endured when they constantly wear a smile. Here’s what you may not know about Ralph.
Ralph Beck, born and raised in Kentucky, suffered the loss of his father at the hands of a murder when he was only five years old. This led Ralph to an adolescence involved in gang affiliation, violence, drugs and alcohol. After a few years into adulthood, Ralph managed to enlist in the Navy and served for four years, offering a hint of hope and a bright future for Ralph. However, during a visit to Virginia, Ralph was shot twice during a carjacking. Thankfully, Ralph was able to escape with his life and his car and was transported to the hospital.
He recalled after the attempted robbery that this same day he was transporting a gun for a friend, which was lying in the seat next to him at the time. Not only did Ralph escape death, but he also escaped the catastrophic repercussions had he remembered about the gun. At the age of 40, Ralph was imprisoned at Rikers Island for a crime he did not commit and began to the study the Bible. Fellow inmates would always joke with him to “give them a scripture,” and surely enough he did, solidifying his reputation as “Reverend Ralph.”
After his release from prison, Ralph became homeless—as he did not have family (his mother had passed away from pancreatic cancer by then)—and spent some time living in the streets of Harlem. Ralph says, “God was always calling and I was always running. But I didn’t know the blessing that would come from all of this.”
In January 2012, Ralph managed to find a job and developed a support system, especially from a friend that occasionally visited church. He would often converse with this friend, and ultimately decided to visit church one day, not knowing that it was the day that he would decide to radically change his life by coming to Christ. Today, you can find Ralph preaching on some of the very same corners he lived on—125th and Lexington (a local favorite corner of Civil Rights activist Malcolm X). Community outreach is one of Ralph’s passions now, as you can frequently find him serving in Harlem, whether in the streets or in group homes, as well as preaching and serving in his church as a minister. As you may know, Ralph is currently a junior majoring in pastor ministry and is also the current public relations officer for Student Government Association (SGA). In the end, Ralph noted that “the change of Christ is all worth it.”
Ralph Beck would have celebrated his 50th birthday on December 31, 2018.