Beggs was born in Ashland, Illinois; he earned his A.B. from Northwestern University in 1905, and a civil engineering degree, with highest honors, from Columbia University in 1910. He joined the Princeton faculty as instructor in 1914, became a full professor in 1930, and chairman of the Department of Civil Engineering in 1937. He was also chairman of the Engineering Foundation, a cooperative arm of the several national engineering societies organized for the furtherance of research.
His students admired him for the thoroughness and clarity of his teaching, and his colleagues for the active part he took in the life of the University and in the engineering profession. Beggs Hall, one of the six units of the Engineering Quadrangle, built in 1962, is named for him.
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