Gift extends late philosophy professor’s long tenure at UB

William Baumer’s family has given $500,000 to create a fund benefiting the Department of Philosophy

Release Date: April 8, 2015

“Whenever he was asked when he would retire, Dad would reply, ‘And do what?’ The family, all of us ... knew that he would complete a semester, whenever that would be, and graduate to eternal life,”
Gail Baumer, daughter of longtime University at Buffalo professor William H. Baumer

BUFFALO, N.Y. — It seems that the late William H. Baumer, longtime philosophy professor, is still working — and solving problems — for the University at Buffalo.

Baumer, who died last June just weeks after completing his 104th semester at UB, held many roles during his 52 years at the university: assistant vice president for academic affairs, program consultant and officer for MCEER (the extreme events engineering research center), Faculty Senate mainstay and ultimate authority on senate procedures and “Roberts Rules of Order.”

In the philosophy department, he had served as director of graduate and undergraduate studies, and taught several of its well-known courses, among them “World Civilization,” “Philosophy of Immanuel Kant” and “Business Ethics and Professional Ethics.”

His newest role comes courtesy of his family, which has given $500,000 to create the William H. Baumer Excellence Fund to benefit the Department of Philosophy in the College of Arts and Sciences.

“We are delighted about the Baumer family gift,” says department chair David Hershenov.

First and foremost, the gift provides for financial assistance to undergraduate and graduate students, supporting graduate student travel and participation in conferences, workshops and Ethics Bowl competitions, which are “like philosophy debating contests,” according to Hershenov.

“The gift also will allow us to make financial awards to deserving undergraduates in honor of Bill Baumer. Bill was director of undergraduate studies and graduate studies. There wasn’t much he didn’t do for students and the school,” Hershenov says.

The department also plans to use the fund to support its colloquium series.

“That annual series of talks had been previously underfunded and most of those funds were earmarked for talks only in ethics or Islamic philosophy. Our Baumer colloquium talks will now range across many fields, and we’ll be able to attract the most in-demand philosophers as speakers,” Hershenov says.

Finally, he adds, the fund will resolve the need for travel money for tenured faculty.

“One of our previous department chairs, Peter Hare, generously left us travel money to be used by junior faculty to deliver papers. But once they became tenured, the well ran dry,” Hershenov says. “Giving talks at prominent venues is a great way for them to raise their profiles and that of the department.

“So the Baumer endowment is a very welcome windfall.”

Baumer’s family members — his wife, Judith Baumer, and daughters Gail Baumer and Ann Schulte, both graduates of UB — say they are carrying out William Baumer’s “plan to give this gift in his retirement, which was motivated by a desire to strengthen the philosophy department.”

They agree that planning the gift made Baumer happy, knowing he would still be helping UB.

“Dad’s role at UB was always full-time plus,” Gail Baumer says. “He taught, participated in various administrative functions, served on committees and was fully present in the fabric of UB. As a result, I think I have a slightly different view of higher education, understanding both the educational (student) perspective, as well as the business and budget process of a university.”

Ann Schulte recalls that besides his family, UB was her father’s life.

“He was studious. He was focused on doing the right things for the university to ensure its long-term strength and to foster independence from the state government,” she says.

They also agree that Baumer never would have retired.

“Whenever he was asked when he would retire, Dad would reply ‘and do what?’ The family, all of us — children, grandchildren, his siblings, nieces and nephews — knew that he would complete a semester, whenever that would be, and graduate to eternal life,” Gail Baumer says. “In May 2014, he completed the grading of exams. It was his last complete semester. To which we all said, ‘Well done good and faithful servant.’”

The Department of Philosophy will host a memorial service for Baumer at 11 a.m. on May 7 in 280 Park Hall on UB’s North Campus. Those interested in giving to the William H. Baumer Excellence Fund may contact the College of Arts and Sciences Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement Office at 716-645-0850.

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