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Meet Bob Baldwin

Written by Anne Vickstrom on .

To the Evergreen Chorale, Bob Baldwin is a talented baritone, a wonderful pianist and a heck of a leader and businessman.

To Colorado School of Mines, he was an outstanding student and went on to be an even more impressive professor in chemical engineering.

Oh, and then there’s NREL - the National Renewable Energy Laboratory – that was thrilled to discover that Bob’s ‘retirement’ somehow didn’t ‘take,’ and so he came their way.  He's principal scientist in the National Bioenergy Center.

“I’ve never hated a day of work in my life,” said Bob.  Perhaps that is his secret; he truly loves everything that he does.

Bob grew up in Iowa. He started playing the piano when he was six years old and continued through high school. Despite his efforts, his mother never allowed him to quit piano. “If you don’t develop a passion when you’re young, you’ll lose it. If a parent doesn’t push a child, it falls to the teacher. You’ve got to invest the time in order to develop a skill, and when you’re young, it’s the right time to do it.”

That skill has served him well, and has brought him great joy. At Iowa State University he earned an award for piano performance for a non-music major. “I quit for a time but I knew I had been missing something in my life.” Thankfully, he returned to his music.

Currently, Bob is studying the organ. “It’s hard,” he said. “It’s like...,” rubbing his stomach and tapping his head to demonstrate the difficulty. “It’s a fantastic mental challenge.”

Devoted to classical performances, he mentioned that “I used to hate Bach before I played the organ.” Asked why, he replied, “I wish I could verbalize it, but I don’t know. Bach on the piano, there’s something not right. He had organ in mind when he wrote.”

His talents in music lie not only behind sheets of music, but also behind a desk and around a board table. Approaching the end of his term as President of the Evergreen Chorale, Bob has agreed to continue in the position.

His main goal/hope/dream for the Chorale: “I’d love to see a performing arts center come to town, in addition to having Center/Stage for musicals and other performances. It’s a challenge financially to keep the building in shape.” Center/Stage works well for musicals and smaller events; but the Chorale, under the direction of Christine Gaudreau, has grown and is presenting huge performances that require a larger venue.

He also looks to continuing the summer music camps that offer classes for elementary through high school classes in singing, acting, make-up and props. “Chorale is a marvelous resource in our community. It’s a unifying force under a banner of music appreciation.”

Bob gets around; he also had the opportunity to sing with the Abu Dhabi Chorale and the Chamber Singers in the United Arab Emirates. After moving to Colorado in 1972, where he earned a PhD in Chemical Engineering at Mines, he was offered a position as professor. He went on to be the department head and the dean. In 2002 he traveled to Abu Dhabi on assignment from Mines. Although there were no Arabs in the choirs, “there was a nice mix of expats.”

In addition to having a positive experience in singing, Bob also came to learn about the culture of the Middle East.

His biggest impression was the difference in the students and how they learn. “Coming from Mines, I thought I was a pretty good teacher; I had won awards,” he shrugged. “They were wonderful kids, but the students there had a different learning style. At Mines, I lectured and students took notes. There, the kids asked questions all the time. There was always an exchange. Once I figured out what they wanted, I earned their respect.” It impacted his understanding of how the world works.

“It was a big deal, personally. It makes me understand why our societies don’t get along. Maybe we aren’t working to learn about each other.” He explained that not understanding each others’ cultures can cause problems.

For instance, “There’s a book called, Don’t They Know It’s Friday. Friday is a holy day for Muslims. There won’t be any business completed on a Friday. I’ve seen business meetings blow up because a Westerner wants to get things done and is too aggressive. Middle Eastern businessmen will simply stand up and walk out of the room. We have to come to understand each other.”

Bob retired from Mines in 2004 and, rather then put his feet up, went to work for NREL in 2008. “I love science and engineering. NREL is one of the best places in the world. I’m working with young people who are starting their careers. It’s really cool working with these young people. NREL has the best of the best there. It’s invigorating; it’s like being back in academics. People keep you fresh; I don’t want to give it up.”

It didn’t take long to discover his favorite people. Married to Suzanne Scott two years ago, Bob and Suzanne built their home (and added a neighbor-appreciating flower garden). They met in the Middle East in 2011 and have been together ever since. “Everyone knows Suzanne, she’s lived here since the ‘70s. She earned a PhD in English from the University of Denver and raised her three kids here in Evergreen.”

Asked what they enjoy doing during their free time, Bob said, “I do a little skiing just to get out, but mostly we love gardening and watching the snow fly while we hang around the ranch.” He then quickly added, “We also love to travel. We love Heidelberg, Germany.” They’ve traveled there several times and look to return.

Anyone who knows Bob Baldwin knows that this guy has far too much energy to just ‘hang around the ranch.’ It will be fun to see what else lies ahead for Bob, and for the Evergreen community.

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