William H. Baumer, PhD, died June 2, 2014 after a short course of illness. Beloved husband of Judith Baumer, father of Gail and Ann, he was born to the Rev. Harry W. and Olga Baumer in Louisville, Kentucky.
Bill was raised in the great city of Cleveland when the economy was growing and resources were plentiful. He benefited from a strong elementary and secondary education, including a French immersion program that complemented the German often spoken at home. Upon completion of high school, he continued his studies at Mission House College (now Lakeland College) near Sheboygan, Wisconsin. He took a hiatus from college to join the US Army; deployed to Germany and armed with a typewriter, he used his facility with German and French to the benefit of our forces there. Upon his return to civilian life, he completed his BA in Philosophy at Lakeland College, as well as his MA and PhD at the University of Wisconsin (Madison), all within the four years supported under the GI Bill. His ability to complete his BA, MA, and PhD in seven years of study forever tainted his daughter’s views on graduate work. During this time, he married Judith (nee Plautz) and they began their family.
Baumer joined the UB faculty in 1962, after brief stints teaching at the University of Nevada and the University of North Dakota. His straightforward, no-nonsense manner and institutional memory were assets to UB for 52 years; he was an economist of language and expression, hard-hitting on matters of importance and at times dismissive of items that distracted from the issue at hand. He had a sense of humor as gritty as No. 12 sandpaper, a penchant for good cigars, a fondness for scotch, a stash of dark chocolate in his desks both at home and at the University, and an impressive collection of classical music.
Achieving tenure in 1967, he served as UB assistant vice president for academic affairs (1973-75) and then as controller of the university (1976-86). He served during the mid- to late-1980s as a member of the National Science Foundation's Division of Advanced Scientific Computing Technical Review Group, and chaired the advisory panel of the National Center for Atmospheric Research's Scientific Computing Division. While teaching such courses as the "Philosophy of Immanuel Kant," "Business Ethics," and "Professional Ethics," he was at the forefront of major university ventures including the National Center for Earthquake Engineering Research (now the Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research), which he joked UB "stole honestly" from the University of California, Berkeley in a National Science Foundation grant competition in 1986, serving as a program consultant and officer from 1986-92.
Bill was a staunch advocate of UB’s strides in computing and supercomputing. One outgrowth of this was his involvement in the development of the New York State Education and Research Network NYSERNet, which grew to become PSINet, a publicly traded internet company of the late 1990s. As an external director and audit committee member, he was asked to travel the world (with Judy by his side) to review operations and to open new computing centers. It was on one of these trips that his wife learned of his facility in French – as he gave a speech in the language when dedicating a data facility.
He also was directly involved in the creation of UB's religious studies program, active in his own faith as a member of the Lutheran church, and believed strongly in the objective study of religion for students. "If I have a problem with religious studies and understanding, it's that there is much less knowledge of religious traditions, particularly of Judaism and Christianity, now than 40 years ago," he has said, adding that the practice of religion is an important factor in a civil society.
In addition to his wife of almost 57 years, Bill is survived by his daughters and son-in-law, Gail Baumer of Random Lake, Wisconsin, and Ann and Paul Schulte of Plymouth, Minnesota, and their children Noel and Richard Niles and Christopher and Emma Schulte. He is also survived by siblings and sisters-in-law Paul and Jan Baumer and Marti Baumer, all of Columbus, Ohio, as well as Jan Baumer of Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Bill was predeceased by his youngest brother, Richard (Dick); they have now reunited in the angel choir under the direction of Robert Shaw.
A celebration of Bill’s life was held on Sunday, June 15, 2014 at St. John Lutheran Church of Amherst, 6540 Main Street, Williamsville NY.
Ann Baumer Schulte, CFA