The College mourns the loss of Carl Baumgaertner, clinical professor of engineering emeritus, aerospace systems and electronics expert, and decorated military veteran, who died Aug. 16 at the age of 95.
In January 1943, six months out of military high school, where he graduated as a United States Army second lieutenant, Baumgaertner was called to active duty following the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was assigned a platoon of 47 men, which included a high school history professor who had taught Baumgaertner the previous year. At age 20, after being promoted to first lieutenant, he led 187 infantry soldiers and three lieutenant officers onto Utah Beach and through France and Germany. For his service and bravery, he received three Bronze Stars and a Silver Star (the third highest military decoration awarded for gallantry in action).
Upon returning from the war in January 1946, Baumgaertner headed back to college. In 1948, he graduated from St. Thomas College with degrees in mathematics and physics, then did graduate studies in electrical engineering at the University of Minnesota. He spent 17 years as chief engineer at Honeywell (aerospace division) in Minnesota and 17 more in California as director of engineering. It was during the latter part of his career at Honeywell that Baumgaertner became familiar with HMC.
“I was trying to hire young engineers and learned that a local school called Harvey Mudd College educated some of the best engineers,” he said in a 2008 HMC interview.
He soon became involved in the college’s engineering Clinic Program, first sponsoring a computer software project and then 11 more projects over the years. Upon retiring from Honeywell in early 1985, Baumgaertner’s colleagues at HMC suggested work at the College. Determined initially to enter retirement, he turned down multiple offers. But by the fall of 1985, he began working with the development office, selling Clinics to companies.
After a year, he began teaching a Clinic and later an electronics class. In the 2008 interview, Baumgaertner said, “I absolutely love the students and the College. The most rewarding thing I’ve done has been here at Mudd because I’m in a position to help others.”
His Los Angeles Times obituary notes: “Beloved by students for his wit, warmth and unconventional teaching approach, Carl was a familiar presence both on the [Harvey Mudd] campus and at Pomona College’s weekly German table. For nearly 18 years, he rode his bicycle 20 miles roundtrip from Glendora to Claremont, until finally retiring at age 86.”
Baumgaertner was an avid outdoorsman, amateur photographer, handyman and volunteer. He is survived by his wife of 71 years, Mary Catherine, a daughter, four sons, and 16 grandchildren and four great grandchildren.