Westmont Magazine An Unexpected Life
Dirk Vande Beek ’81 has a job that allows him to serve as a soccer coach and a room dad for his children.
But his work also provides unusual opportunities for them, such as attending presidential inaugurations, visiting the White House and meeting the president and vice president.
Dirk’s varied career has included stints with the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations and a role in the 2000 presidential campaign as director of communications and press secretary for Vice President Cheney. He met Cheney when he worked as global manager of public relations at Halliburton in the 1990s. After the campaign, he spent two years at Coca-Cola as vice president of public relations worldwide and two years as senior vice president for government and public affairs at RJI Capital Corp. In December 2004, he became vice president of global government relations at Computer Associates, an international software company.
“I had an inkling I wanted to work in government and the corporate world, but I never expected this kind of life,” Dirk says. “I’m honored to attend the World Economic Forum; President Bush likes to call me ‘Coca-Cola man.’ A liberal arts education prepares you for so much more than your chosen field.”
Dirk majored in history at Westmont, where his father, the late Everett Vande Beek, taught theater arts. During his senior year, he served an internship in the Santa Barbara office of Rep. Bob Lagomarsino. After graduating, he ran the New Mexico office for an international company, Western Temporary Services Inc., but he missed politics. He campaigned for a local congressional candidate and went to Washington, D.C., with him when he won.
“Being part of the legislative process has shown me that individuals really can make a difference,” he says. “If I teach one thing to my kids other than faith and ethics, it will be that one person can make a difference — and that Christians need to be involved. You don’t have to wear a neon cross when you work in Washington; you can make a difference quietly and serve others. If God has put you there, he will show you why — and what you need to do.
“It’s exciting to see so many Westmont alumni in decision-making positions in Washington,” he adds. He has developed deep friendships with several of his classmates, including Bill ’81 and Janet Jones ’81 Lamkin and Debbie Gebhardt ’81. Debbie is chief of staff for Rep. Thomas Petri, and Janet spent several years in Washington working for a representative and a senator.
While Dirk has enjoyed the privileges of his positions, he has few illusions about them. “Power is fleeting,” he says. “That’s something I learned from Cheney. He taught me never to take myself too seriously. People come and go in government. When it comes down to it, God sees us all on an equal footing. The important thing is to keep your eye on what God wants you to do.”
For Dirk, that means putting his faith first and being the best husband and father he can be. Dirk and his wife, Maureen, have three children in their blended family. These days, he prefers to do his international work with a laptop, Blackberry and cell phone and stay close to home in Atlanta.