Student Spotlight: Joe Beimfohr

Joe Beimfohr’s Inspirational Will to Succeed

By Cheryl Balassone |   October 2010

Joe Beimfohr , Student

School of Undergraduate Studies

Joe Beimfohr was deployed to Iraq in January, 2005. Just six months later, on July 5, he was severely wounded when an IED, more commonly known as a “roadside bomb,” exploded on his patrol north of Baghdad. Joe was transported to Walter Reed Hospital, where he spent more than a year in recovery. Ultimately, injuries he sustained left him as a double amputee.

After his discharge from the Army, Joe finally had the time and opportunity to pursue his higher education, a goal he had for many years. Knowing that he wanted to work and attend school at the same time, Joe researched schools that offered evening classes. He recalled the many soldiers he knew who attended UMUC while on active duty. UMUC is renowned throughout the military as the best college to get a degree because of the significant amount of credit given for military experiences and the array of available course offerings and formats.  Sure enough, when UMUC evaluated Joe’s military experience, he was given enough credits for a full semester. Now majoring in finance, Joe aspires to become a financial planner and help soldiers and government employees effectively plan for retirement.

A strong-willed, spirited person, Joe is able to view his injury in a positive light. When asked how it changed him, Joe replied, “I think it has made me more driven. I was very stubborn at a young age and that was a benefit to me during my recovery. I discovered that we place limitations on ourselves. But a driven person will look past those limitations and find a way to succeed when others have failed.”

That determination has allowed Joe to meet his challenges in some fascinating and inspirational ways ... such as his new-found fondness for teaching martial arts. One day during his stay at Walter Reed Hospital, Joe met Bob Kunkel in the cafeteria.  Kunkel had been injured in Vietnam and later became an instructor of Danzan Ryu Ju-Jitsu. (He was also featured recently on CNN’s “Heroes,” a series highlighting ordinary people making an extraordinary difference in the lives of others.) The two began discussing self-defense techniques and soon, Joe was hooked. He has been teaching Ju-Jitsu to wounded soldiers at Walter Reed for more than a year now. His students include soldiers in wheel chairs, individuals with missing limbs, those who are visually impaired, and many more. Beimfohr greatly enjoys teaching and helping his students feel empowered, knowing that they can defend themselves. 

Joe’s strong desire to help others is obvious. He is interested in becoming more involved at UMUC and hopes to take part in opportunities to further enhance the university’s access for disabled students.

His fondness for UMUC is equally apparent. “I like the level of interaction between the students and the faculty and professors at UMUC,” Joe said. “Attending school here has been great; the faculty has been supportive and very considerate when it comes to my disability. As far as I'm concerned, UMUC is the best choice for my education.”

Joe was chosen to participate in a special reading of the U.S. Constitution, a special project of UMUC's Diversity Initiatives in honor of Constitution Day. Watch the Constitution Day Video Presentation.