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Oral History: Pete Baumann’s Story

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Pete Baumann came to Bard College at Simon’s Rock in 1966. Over the next four years Baumann built the campus, part of the team of contractors, plumbers, electricians, and other local tradespeople Mrs. Hall had contracted to realize her vision of an experimental school that would serve bright, highly-motivated young women. She hadn’t quite developed the concept of an early college—that would come later, as would the introduction of male students, a merger with Bard College, and countless other changes that refined and furthered the mission of a place she named, simply yet somewhat enigmatically, Simon’s Rock.

The name would change several times, and eventually Mrs. Hall passed away, but Pete Baumann—known to all as Pete—has remained. He’s served the College for forty-four years, working on all aspects of the physical plant. He helped build the dining hall, the classrooms, the Alumni Library, the College Center, and more than a couple dormitories. In recent years, he’s befriended countless students in his current role as the Library custodian.

He remembers transforming Upper Campus from a derelict seminary into a complex of dormitories, faculty housing, and the school’s first proper gymnasium, which was remodeled yet again to become Pibly House. He recalls when Kendrick House was filled with brass doorknobs and antique teak furniture; when the Library flooded; and when there was a plan to construct a sledding course that would run from the Orchard Houses to the area where the Fisher Science and Academic Center would in time be built.

The above audio is excerpted from an oral history interview with Pete conducted in 2005 by Russell Miller, then the College’s archivist, and currently its web producer. Pete’s knowledge of the College’s history is perhaps unparalleled, and his devotion to Simon’s Rock is second to none. “Pete’s Folly,” discussed towards the end of the interview, refers to the frog pond in the Library atrium, one of Pete’s most personal, and best-loved, contributions to the College landscape.