group of students in row


By Carla Beecher 

First-generation college student Le Roy "Lee" R. Baur (MPA '72) believes in the power of education, both formal and informal. 

Lee Baur with arms crossed
"One learns something every day from every encounter with another person," said the retired civil engineer from his home in Knoxville, Tennessee. "The goal is to always better oneself from your experiences."

Lee was fortunate to have devoted parents, Robert and Clara, who valued the transformational power of education. They came to Chicago in the 1920s as immigrants — his father from Zurich, Switzerland, and his mother from Stuttgart, Germany. They met, married and settled in the Irving Park neighborhood on Chicago’s North Side.

To pay tribute to his parents, Lee and his family established the Baur Family Endowed Scholarship in Public Administration to provide financial support to and encourage the success of students pursuing careers in the public sector.

“This scholarship honors my parents and their courage to immigrate to the United States, while also providing students an educational pathway to opportunities that otherwise might not be possible,” said Lee.
With both parents fluent in German, Lee remembers surprising his grammar school teachers with his language skills. “I only spoke High German at home until I started kindergarten,” he said. “My parents believed that knowing a second language was an advantage in life.”
Lee was a good student, drawn to math and science. After graduating from Lane Technical High School, he enrolled at the Illinois Institute of Technology and also worked at LaSalle Extension University in the Loop, where he met his late wife, Jo an. They married in 1959. In 1962, Lee received a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from IIT and worked for the next five years as a civil engineer for the Illinois Department of Transportation.
“My education benefited from having some concrete work experience,” he said. “It enabled me to get much more from my classes because it helped clarify what I wanted out of them.” 

He and Jo an bought a home in Winnetka in 1963 and began raising a family: daughter Suzanne is now a software engineer in Poughkeepsie, New York, and son Stuart is a writer in Hollywood, California. Lee’s next position was director of the Village of Glenview’s Public Works Department, where he oversaw a staff of 40.
While there, Lee heard about Roosevelt’s graduate program in public administration from his friend and mentor, the late Max Whitman. 
At the time, the program was taught at Great Lakes Naval Base in North Chicago and included military officers and federal employees who, he said, helped broaden his worldview. He continues to be grateful to the Village of Glenview for sponsoring his studies.
With classes in management, organizational structure and effectiveness, policy and human relations, among others, Lee learned to be a better supervisor. 

“In contrast to my engineer education of math, equations and predictable science, my MPA degree taught me to embrace the human side of employees,” he said. “I learned how to be open and explain the reasons behind my actions and to give my employees the ability to make their own decisions, which gave them ownership of their jobs. It showed me the importance of motivating employees so we both could be satisfied with outcomes.” 

In the mid-1970s, Lee began working for the City of Lake Forest, where he rose to director of public works. There, he managed a staff of 80 and initiated and accomplished a number of major infrastructure improvements. He also served as president of the 800-member Chicago Metropolitan Chapter of the American Public Works Association and advised the national organization.
When he retired in 1992, he and Jo an traveled throughout the world and to 49 states — North Dakota is still on his bucket list. Before Jo an passed away in 2012, they cruised America in their motor home, settling in the beautiful mountains of eastern Tennessee.
“Through hard work and education, I was able to have a successful career, live a happy life and provide a good living for my family,” Lee said. “I hope to give that same chance to a new generation of Roosevelt students. The Baur Family Scholarship is my way to make that a reality.”

students in library with arch

4 out of 5 students  

received a University scholarship or grant during the last academic year — that's 80% of all students. 

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