Jonah Beleckis, ’16
What I will remember most: Professor Baughman believed in me more than I believed in myself. He felt this way for countless students. Under all the jokes that would still make me laugh the 93rd time I heard them, he deeply cared about his students and believed in pushing us to accept our potential.
What do you think about his commitment to students? Professor Baughman made every student feel like they were his favorite ever student. If that’s not the ideal every professor should strive for when it comes to commitment to students, I am not sure what is.
What was the best thing about being his student?: I never regularly looked forward to a class — genuinely looked forward to — as much as I did for Baughman’s classes. Even when I was in my lowest lows, I could escape in his class. And even get laughs out of it when I was having trouble finding enjoyment in anything else. He made the material engaging and exciting to me. He was invested in me. He was invested in every student. He made me laugh — without fail. When his jokes bombed, he would murmur “why do I waste this material” and the class would crack up.
What did he say that sticks with you?: I knew I really wanted to get into his 404 class, but I thought it would fill up. One day, he invited the Cardinal’s Editor-in-Chief Jack Casey and myself to a Board of Visitors luncheon, where I nervously approached him after and pleaded for him to make room and let me in the class. From what I’ve learned, he frequently had to get more space for his classes. I asked him, and he gave me one of the patented Baughman winks and didn’t say anything else. I can’t explain why I wasn’t worried that he didn’t give me much of an answer, but I trusted his character, even if this was the first time we really met. I wasn’t wrong.
What did he mean to you? Baughman taught our class on Thursday March 10, then began with cancer treatment that weekend. He taught until that disease didn’t let him teach any more. That might be all you need to know about his commitment to education. I was closer with Baughman than any other professor I’ve had. He made us laugh, but more importantly he used his humor to make us enthusiastic about what we were learning. Not many others can come close to doing that.
There better be something big named after him! The way he walked around, what he wore, really lends itself to a great looking statue, but that might be too ambitious. And maybe the last thing he would want. He was humble. But he was special. No other way around it.
Carolyn Bronstein, ’01 and teaching assistant, now professor and associate dean, College of Communication, DePaul University
I was his teaching assistant for multiple semesters in J560, and I was a student in J560 History of Mass Communication and J919 Seminar in Mass Communication History, and J990 Thesis as I wrote my doctoral dissertation under his direction (he was my PhD thesis advisor).
In the mid-1990s, I had the privilege of serving as Professor Baughman’s teaching assistant in the J560 History of Mass Communication course. In this large lecture course, Baughman excelled. He clearly relished the stage and crafted a model that was two parts information delivery and one part performance art. He wanted students to enjoy his lectures in addition to learning from them, and he never offered a dry lecture devoid of humor. In fact, his delivery and comedic timing were so good and so seemingly spontaneous that only a repeat visitor to his classes, like me, would have known that much of his material was crafted and polished ahead of time. Baughman prepared meticulously for class. He would not visit with students or colleagues, or speak much immediately prior to class. Instead, he pored over his famous file folders filled with lecture notes and the humorous anecdotes that accompanied them. When class began, so did the show. It was a one-man act filled with impressions, regional humor, dramatic finger-wagging (a favorite), and sports references, most often regarding major league baseball.
In a unit on the rise of advertising and branding in the late 19th century, Baughman would give one of his most memorable lectures. He described the branding efforts of the Victor Talking Machine Company (later RCA), a manufacturer of phonographs. At first, advertisements for phonographs focused on the technical aspects of the product and the wonders of recorded sound. But as branding efforts grew, the Victor Company sought a way to distinguish its product from that of its nearest competitor, the Edison Company, which had begun using its namesake inventor’s photograph on every phonograph and record sold. The Victor Company bought the rights to a painting by English artist Francis Barraud titled, His Master’s Voice. The painting showed a black and white dog named Nipper, ears perked up, listening intently at the horn of a phonograph; the high quality of the recorded sound was indistinguishable from the original.
Baughman approached the advertising image casually at first, noting the cute dog, sometimes asking how many dog lovers were in the crowd. ext, he would ask what we all thought the dog was listening to, which prompted responses of “his master’s voice.” And why, he would ask, would Nipper need to listen to the phonograph to hear his owner? hen, Baughman would wind up his arm, chalk in hand, and urgently reveal the ghastly truth of the advertisement: Nipper sat atop a polished coffin which contained the body of his dead master. The Victor phonograph played lifelike recordings of his master speaking! Nipper listened to his master’s voice from beyond the grave! And with that hideous reveal, Baughman would throw the chalk with all his might across the giant lecture hall, adding a tangible physical impact to the contemporary ghost story that left everyone in the room gasping at the macabre image.
This was a regular day in J560, where I learned the art of teaching from one of its finest practitioners.
Irene Burski, ’16
What I will remember most: Professor Baughman was one of those genuinely good people who somehow managed to connect, debate, fiercely mentor and laugh with his students… pretty much all during the span of one conversation during office hours. He had a willingness to tell the hard truth (rather than the easy lie) when the work you submitted was not your best, immeasurably teaching us all more for the better. And his prediction that I was destined to be “late for [my] own wedding someday,” given my tendency to rush in a minute or two or five after the bell — I can already guarantee it’s spot on.
What do you think about his commitment to students? He had an inside joke with everybody. He didn’t play favorites so much as he tried to help everyone. Office hour meetings weren’t “scary” so much as they were a time to sit and talk about anything.
What was the best thing about being his student?: He knew his stuff, but he wasn’t condescending at all about it. His brand of humor, sarcasm and intelligence was ridiculously engaging as a lecture style.
What did he say that sticks with you?: I was going through my quarter life crisis on journalism/did I pick the right thing to major in/how does the job market work/etc. and Professor Baughman was very honest with me about what I needed to make happen in order to be successful. But he didn’t paint an impossible picture of the real world, making it seem out of reach. He told me, “I’ve got a good feeling about you, kid.”
What did he mean to you? He was perceptive. He could tell when a certain assignment you had absolutely not done your best work on, and he would work with you to realize where you needed to put more effort next time. Cheers, Prof Baugh.
Ben Deutsch, ’85, vice president of corporate communications for The Coca-Cola Company
The Big Journalism School in the Sky just gained a giant of a faculty member. Professor Baughman had an immeasurable impact on me and so many others at our school. He made learning fun and interesting, with his dry, acerbic wit, great sense of humor, and steel trap of a memory.
He was likeable and always approachable. Though he had degrees from both Harvard and Columbia, Jim never forgot his Midwest roots and never took himself too seriously.
As a journalism student, he taught me the value of being curious, and that asking great questions is often times harder than giving good answers.
I was on the Board of Visitors of the J-School and served as its Chair while Jim was director of the department. What struck me during that time is that he was always incredibly open to improving the experience for J-School students, even though he arguably wrote the book on how to teach, engage and inspire them.
Educators like Professor Baughman come around once in a generation. I always admired how he managed to stay connected with his former students, but, truth be told, that was due in large measure to the fact that we all sought to stay connected to him. He was somebody you always wanted to be around. What a tremendous legacy he has left.
Katie Harbath, ’03, global politics and government outreach director for Facebook
What I will remember most: His humor and quick wit in the classroom. Also, the long conversations we’d have on Friday afternoons about politics and other current affairs.
What do you think about his commitment to students? He cared. A lot. And he cared long after his students left his classroom.
What was the best thing about being his student?: How he challenged you while making it fun at the same time.
What did he say that sticks with you?: I don’t remember specifically what he said, but his support when I didn’t get the Badger Herald editorship. His encouragement meant everything in what at the time was a very difficult one for me but also helped to open me up to other opportunities which I firmly believe put me on the path I’m on today.
What did he mean to you? I was lucky enough to have three professors who played a significant role in my education and on my career and Professor Baughman was one of those. I learned more from the conversations we had outside the classroom than inside. He saw more in me than I did in the beginning and looking back I appreciate his support so much more.
I remember when I graduated in 2003 I sent him and Katy Culver a very long email with my MANY thoughts on ways I thought the Journalism program and J202 could be improved. While I know that he didn’t agree with all my thoughts, I know that he had an absolute commitment to improving the J-School. He listened to my viewpoints and took the time to share his. As the director of the school he could have easily ignored me but he didn’t.
Kaitlyn Kirby, ’12, founder and editor in chief of Mini Magazine and Tulle Magazine
What I will remember most: The politician impressions, the great hair, the bow ties, his ever-popular mid-lecture wink, coming into each class with a manilla folder under his arm that contained his lecture notes.
What do you think about his commitment to students? Professor Baughman was like Vilas’ most accessible celebrity. He was always happy to give feedback and his door was always open (and he had Pez).
What was the best thing about being his student?: The privilege to learn from one of the journalism world’s best and how he seemed to make every topic fun, yet impactful, memorable and important.
What did he say that sticks with you?: Aside from the fact that I can still hear him saying “mad as a wet hen,” I remember him reminding us in my column-writing class that we were from one of the best journalism programs in the country and to never forget that when we met or were up against others from seemingly better in a job interview.
What did he mean to you? I remember being terrified to hand in stories to Prof. Baugh and was always shocked when I did well because he WAS journalism. I feel very lucky to have learned from him for three years and yet, I don’t think it was long enough! It’s because of him I “pray to the church of the good Gray Lady,” took a chance on political reporting, learned about the history of journalism, the mystique of Maureen Dowd and can appreciate a great bow tie.
I can honestly say I’ve never had a professor like Professor Baughman and there will never be another one like him to grace the hallowed halls of Vilas. He is the person who taught me what it means to be a great journalist and inspires me to strive to be a better one. The man is a legend, that’s all there is to it.
Michael Singer, ’11, NBA reporter/producer at USA TODAY
What I will remember most: My lasting memory of Professor Baughman was his loyal devotion to his methods. He famously avoided cell phones. He relied heavily on his typewriter. His filing cabinet, though a maze for anyone else, served as a deep catalogue of resources and references for both he and his students. He loved Pez and always offered you one when you stepped foot in his office. He took careful, engaged notes on his notepad, which made you feel like you were the teacher and he was the student. But really, he was just showing students how much he valued their opinions.
He cherished face-to-face relationships, often developing them by dropping helpful notes or suggesting pertinent articles in whatever field a student was pursuing. He was affable, cheery and funny. We met at State Street Brats more times than I’d care to admit to inevitably watch the Cleveland Browns lose. I once got an e-mail from him saying: “Mike, the Browns’ loss has left me suicidal. Should I shoot myself tonight, I am hoping you would speak at the memorial, along with (Cleveland Indians manager) Manny Acta and Sigourney Weaver. To be held in the Nafziger room, of course.”
He was decidedly old school, which is why he championed the history of communication. He thought it essential for today’s journalists to understand how the media got to its current state. He took immense pride in the past, which is probably why he never wanted to leave it.
What do you think about his commitment to students? I remember that Professor Baughman was always available to his students. Anytime I was in Vilas, there always seemed to be a line of students outside his office waiting to talk to him. His plate was never too full. Before I was close with Professor Baughman, I asked another professor to be my senior thesis adviser. He declined. I went to Baughman, who without really knowing me said, “Give me your pitch.” After 45 minutes we had an outline for how I would attack a 60-page thesis on ESPN.
I don’t think I was any different than any of his other students. Not that he would ever let you know the lengths he went for others, but I always had the feeling that if a student was willing to make the effort, Professor Baughman would match that.
In retrospect, his commitment was his investment in his students. He paid up front with helpful tips, book or article suggestions and his time. And later, if possible, he’d ask for your help. After I graduated in 2011, he sent a number of students in my direction (not that I was much help), but there was no question that I’d make the effort as he’d done for me.
What was the best thing about being his student?: The best part about being in Professor Baughman’s class was that he taught with unmatched and infectious charisma. I took his class as a journalism major, but I encouraged three or four of my friends (history majors) to take his classes as well. They all loved him. I felt Baughman was a treasure, and I thought everyone could benefit. His impressions always kept classes loose. His humor struck a balance with some of the serious topics he covered. As a journalist, I loved how he would effortlessly interject quotes, always careful to include citations. Anytime a topic breached his area of expertise, he was always quick to remind students that they could buy his books on amazon dot com for $1.99. If he was going to advertise himself, it was only going to be self-effacing.
He would often look at me in the middle of lectures, cite something or other about his hometown Warren, Ohio, and then continue on. I always felt fortunate that simply being from Cleveland and growing up an Indians fan had given me an in. I couldn’t have been luckier that the Indians were an easy team to bond over.
What did he say that sticks with you?: I had finished my senior thesis and had planned to meet him and several other professors, including his good friend Professor Downs, a Political Science professor, at the Union. I had a question about copyrighting my research. Unbeknownst to me, I was talking to several highly accomplished and widely published professors. I mentioned the idea of copyrighting it, not entirely considering the fact that their work was of much more significance than anything I’d done throughout my senior year.
As the two of us were leaving, Baughman commented to me that he’d appreciated how I’d approached the situation. It struck me because I then thought about the pains he went through to remain as humble as he was. Every time he earned some sort of praise, he’d deflect it with a glancing joke or re-direct the attention elsewhere. He didn’t like being celebrated, just as he wouldn’t like these tributes.
Educated at Harvard, he knew he could hold his own intellectually but had no interest in flaunting it. He was as humble, considerate and genuine as could be but couldn’t help but share his substantial gifts.
What did he mean to you? Simply put, he was the standard I compared the rest of my teachers to. He was brilliant, funny and supportive. He was proud, loyal and worldly. He could criticize your work, but it never stung since he’d do it with a joke. And the only reason he had a joke to lean on was because he’d made the effort to develop those relationships over shared interests. I guess he naturally facilitated a journalist’s biggest asset: trust.
As mentioned earlier, I’m from Cleveland. Professor Baughman and I spoke a disproportionate amount of time about our hometown and the Indians. And because I’m not sure how many people were as lucky to get these, I want to share how Baughman routinely signed his e-mails, underscoring his love for Cleveland.
These were culled from hundreds of e-mails:
– Al Lopez (managed the Indians from 1951-1956, Baughman used his name too many times to count)
– Mike Hargrove (managed Indians from 1991-1999)
– Tris Speaker (managed Indians from 1919-1926)
– Nap Lajoie (managed Indians from 1905-1909)
– Alvin Dark (managed Indians 1968-1971)
– A Chief Wahoo toaster
– World B. Free (Cavs player from 1982-1986)
– Ken Aspromonte. (managed Indians from 1972-1974)
– Gabe Paul (President of Indians in 1980s)
– Chief Wahoo (mascot)
– Frank Robinson (managed Indians 1975-1977)
– Manny Acta (managed Indians 2010-2012)
– Woody Hayes (Ohio State coach 1951-1978)
– Tito Francona (Indians OF 1959-1964)
In case anyone needed tangible evidence regarding his feelings on the Indians, there you go. His legacy is one of loyalty. To his baseball team, to his students and to his incredible wife Mickey, who is as sweet as her husband was funny.
Owen Ullman, ’73, managing editor for foreign news at USA TODAY
I met Jim after graduation during my many visits to the J-School. We had many long discussions about politics in Wisconsin and Washington, D.C., and the state of journalism.
I remember one dinner in early 2000 when I told him over dinner that I knew George W. Bush very well, was sure he was not really as conservative as his campaign positions and was confident he would be more moderate if elected. Years later, after Bush pushed a very conservative agenda, we would laugh at my initial assessment and he would poke fun at political journalists–in his gentle way–for always getting it wrong. I had to agree.
I also had a chance to watch him in action in the classroom and understood why he was no popular with his students: scholarly, insightful, entertaining and charming all at the same time.
Jim was a great guy to know and a tremendous asset to the J-School. On future visits to Madison, I will deeply miss his friendship, his wit and his wisdom.
Ali Zelenko, ’93, senior vice president of communications for NBC News
What I will remember most: His singular dry wit, and very specific aw-shucks-ness.
What do you think about his commitment to students? He made learning fun. He had the very rare combined ability to be both a brilliant historian and very entertaining storyteller.
What was the best thing about being his student?: More recently I worked with him when I was the Chair of the Board of Visitors when he led the J-School. He was a great leader and consensus builder, and of course a passionate advocate for the School. And the over/under on Indians references in every meeting was always high.
What did he say that sticks with you?: Only a few weeks before Jim died he brought me back to the J School to give the Robert Taylor Lecture. When he first invited me, I cautioned him that the “lecture” format is not my forte, but he twisted my arm to do it, in his own charming way. Despite feeling very ill, he came to see me speak — for which I am so grateful — and sent an email afterwards with some very nice words about my talk. I took it as the highest form of praise, coming from one of my public speaking icons. I will always cherish that note from him.
What did he mean to you? He was an early and key influence on my love of of journalism. He was the soul of the J-School, his death is a tremendous loss. But his gifts as a brilliant historian, witty storyteller, and warm and decent man had such a specific impact on those he taught and touched — there’s no question his very unique legacy will be an everlasting one.
Dave Zweifel, ’62, emeritus editor of The Capital Times
Jim had this knack of making alumni feel that they were still as much a part of the UW J-school as when they were students. During my years as editor of The CapTimes, he’d often send me notes telling me what he liked about something new we were trying or, in rare cases, what he didn’t like.
I personally got to know his powers of persuasion when as director of the school, which coincided with its centennial celebration, he convinced our Evjue board to make a million-dollar contribution to create a professorship in the school. Coupled with the Jim Burgess ethics professorship, this marked a high point in the J-school’s later day evolution.
My fondest memories with Jim, though, center around our mutual love for baseball. He was a die-hard Cleveland Indians’ fan, to the extent of drinking Cleveland’s “Burning River” beer during the “seminar” sessions at the Big Ten Pub on Friday afternoons while chiding me for my fruitless cheering for the Cubs. Along with our mutual friend Jim Hoyt we’d sojourn to Chicago’s Wrigley Field when the American League Indians made a rare appearance in the National League park. He’d walk around Wrigley and when he spotted anyone sporting an Indian cap, he’d loudly proclaim, “Go Tribe,” which, in turn, drew high fives. Yes, his friendship and wit made him the life of the party.
The past couple of years while on my annual trip to spring training in Arizona, I’d bring him home an Indians’ yearbook and a jar of Cleveland’s famous Bertman ballpark mustard. I’m bringing them home again this year if for nothing else than to remind me what a great teacher, journalist and friend Jim Baughman was to all of us.
Courtney (Harrison) Goldberg, ’04
I am a 2004 graduate of the J-school and I had the honor of taking two of Baughman’s classes, History of Mass Communication and Mass Communication and Literature (or something along those lines) during my senior year. As a student, I must have asked a question one day that prompted Baughman to call me “Senator Harrison.” From then on, whenever I raised my hand in one of his lectures, stopped to see him after class or during his office hours, he always addressed me as “Senator.” I remember even asking him one day if he thought of me as a state senator or one at the federal level and he promptly replied, “Oh, federal!”
Years later, while living in Washington, D.C., I attended a UW alumni event that Baughman attended (he was the main reason I went as I wanted to see him again). I walked up to him there and said, “Hi Professor Baughman, do you remember me?” He smiled and quipped, “Of course, Senator Harrison, how are you?”
I am also a Cleveland-area native, and I’m a huge fan of the Cleveland Indians. Professor Baughman was an excellent teacher and role model. He motivated me to try harder and made it known when he knew I could have done better. I learned a tremendous amount from him. He will certainly be missed!
Susan Riniker Marquez, ’85
I took a newswriting class with Professor Baughman when I was a junior and earned a B. I took his Mass Communications History class as a senior and worked my butt off much to the surprise of some of my classmates. They said, “You’re going to graduate. Why are you working so hard in this course?” I said, “Because it’s Professor Baughman’s class! I want to earn an A to earn his respect!” The latter course was a huge lecture class. After the first exam, Professor Baughman began the class by announcing about five or six names. Mine was one of them. I thought I was in some kind of trouble. Then he said that these people he had named were the only ones to receive As on the test. My stock really rose with my classmates after that.
The last time I saw Professor Baughman was after I had graduated. It was the late 1980s. I was working as a reporter at the Farmington Daily Times in Farmington, N.M. I was coming home to visit family in Wisconsin. I saw him in the Madison airport. I could not, in good conscience, approach him, however, because he and a lady friend were in the middle of a romantic goodbye. I didn’t want to interrupt a beautiful moment.
Rest in God’s peace, Professor Baughman. I pray that you are enjoying your eternal days basking in the warm sunshine of a Cleveland Indians game. And that they will win.