Remembering Professor Baughman

When I think back to my time as a college student at the University of Wisconsin — Madison, I remember game days, late night’s at PDR, walking the farmer’s market at the Capitol… but most importantly, and most often, I think about Professor Baughman.

Prof. Baughman and I during a “class outside” where we sipped on Spotted Cow Beers

Professor Baughman was one of those teachers they write movies about — the kind where you end up standing on your desk saying “Oh Captain, My Captain” when that moment of inspiration and bliss overcomes your 21-year-old self. He was more than just a journalism professor — he was a mentor, he was a friend, he was a source of inspiration.

He’s the professor that pushed me to add an extra class to my course load, even though I had amassed enough credits to graduate (his class, of course). He’s the man who inspired me to lug around Arthur Schlesinger’s “A Thousand Days” while on spring break in Las Vegas. He was the first person to congratulate me when I found out I had been accepted into the NBC Page Program. He was the person to reward my hard work and slaving over hours and hours worth of microfilm with a small “JFK for President” pin that he had collected over the years. He is the person who I think about often when I’m struggling to figure out what inspires me — because I remember in his classroom or in his office which was lined with hundreds of books he would let us borrow; I remember how I felt like anything was possible.

There was one assignment in our J405 class that I think about often. He tasked us with listening and observing and recording a conversation. The example he had given from a student in a past class was that she had driven on the highway to a truck stop and sat and listened, recording the heated banter between two truck drivers. I hadn’t taken the assignment as seriously as I should have, I think I wanted to go out to KK and then to Brats and then to I don’t even know — all I remember is that I procrastinated on the assignment. I ultimately listened in to my 13-year-old sister’s video chat with her best friend and recorded the humorous and silly lives of teenage girls. But five years later, that assignment is stuck with me.

I always carry around a notebook, listening and observing and recording. I think of all the conversations I’ve heard, and how I might not have ever thought about it had it not been for Professor Baughman. I was just talking this morning about wanting to email him about how often I think about that assignment, and about the interesting conversation I had overheard about the state of the 2016 race as I watched Wisconsin basketball at the airport bar at LaGuardia.

Life is so fleeting, and so short. Today, I think about Professor Baughman’s family, I think about our J405 class who became more like friends than classmates and most of all — I think about all the future UW students who won’t have the privilege to learn from this amazing man.

Thank you Professor Baughman, for giving my writing a sense of purpose and peaked my curiosity about the world around me. I will always think of you whenever I’m sitting somewhere, looking to my surroundings for inspiration. You will be missed.