FSC's First "Last Lecture"
Dr. Bob Baum
LAKELAND (Dec. 1, 2010) -- After being asked to speak at the commencing of Florida Southern's "Last Lecture" series, Dr. Bob Baum, FSC professor of biology, said he broke into a "cold sweat" as he realized the honor of being chosen. He told the crowd gathered inside the Annie Pfeiffer Chapel Tuesday evening, "I hope the first' last lecturer will not be the last' last lecturer."
Considering the success of the night, with many faculty and staff members, students, and community residents in attendance, FSC professor Larry Burke said after there will be more speakers in the series in the future. "We hope it will be each semester," he said.
The purpose of the "Last Lecture," presented by the FSC Omicron Delta Kappa honor society, is to give one faculty member -- one chosen by ODK -- an opportunity to speak as though it's their final chance to impart words of wisdom. FSC Provost Dr. Russ Warren said at the event that anyone who gives a "Last Lecture" is encouraged "to think deeper about the essence of life," offering their findings to others. "I cannot think of a better speaker than Bob Baum," Warren said, calling Baum a "man of quality."
Baum is retiring in April after teaching 29 years at FSC. With his retirement, nearly-three decades of serving FSC students, and his past involvement with ODK as faculty secretary, Baum was an obvious choice for the first speaker. "He had my vote," said Gabe Narcia 10, president of FSC's ODK.
After being introduced by Narcia, Baum was quick to point out what he wasn't going to say during the "Last Lecture." "I'm not going to give you the eight most important keys to life," he joked. Instead, he took a more personal approach. "I've learned that life is hard -- that life is brutal if you are not prepared," said Baum, something he learned first-hand after leaving Florida State University as a student because of poor grades. "No one expected me to flunk out," he said.
Though calling himself a true "science junkie," as an undergraduate at FSU, Baum turned from studying for a while after getting involved with fraternity life. By the time he left school, everyone -- including his professors, and even his fraternity brothers -- didn't expect him to make much out of his life. However, Baum soon proved everyone wrong, and he said he hopes students will stay focused. "Don't get over involved, but get involved," he said. "Your job is your education."
Baum shared with those in attendance about his career working and researching with the best in science. While attending Goddard College, Baum even found himself meeting with Nobel Prize winner James Dewey Watson, who was in part responsible for solving the structure of DNA. Watson referred Baum to a research position for a summer under a Harvard biophysicist.
The soon-to-be-retired Baum also spoke about his involvement with the Civil Rights movement, and how he promoted HIV/AIDS awareness at FSC and around the community at a time when people believed just shaking hands or hugging could spread the disease.
After the conclusion of Baum's lecture, Narcia, who graduates this month, said he thought it was outstanding. "The audience gained insights into Professor Baum's life. He made his point that just because you start life a certain way doesn't mean you can't still go and be successful," Narcia said.
Baum holds two Bachelor of Science degrees in biology and chemistry from Goddard Collage. He performed graduate work in civil engineering at the University of Florida, also earning his Master of Science and a Ph.D. in virology. Before spending the last 29 years at FSC, Baum taught for three years at Clemson University.
He and his wife Diane have two daughters, Rebecca Knowles and Laura Baum, and one grandson, Clayton.