L. David Baldwin (CIT ’49), who forged an extraordinary career in electronics and followed it with transformative philanthropy, died Monday in Florida. He was 96.
“David Baldwin was a quiet gentleman and a force for good,” said Roger Cerne, longtime leader of the Case Alumni Association who now serves the Case School of Engineering as an executive advisor for development. “He felt a deep commitment to physics and other fundamental science education, and demonstrated his support through philanthropy that he often insisted be anonymous. He was a true inspiration to us all.”
An active member of the physics club and Sigma Nu as an undergraduate, Baldwin went on to earn a master’s degree from Columbia University. He later worked In General Dynamics’ Radio Communications Lab—where in 1961 he published a piece on parametric amplifier circuits in the journal of the Institute of Radio Engineers.
By the mid-1960s Baldwin was ready to lead his own enterprise, launching Frequency Sources Inc. (FSI), which produced devices related to the microwave industry. Started with a $4,000 investment, the Massachusetts company had a valuation of $1.2 million within six years.
Baldwin later sold the firm, and before long began writing computer code. He built an online venture, pbear.com, and subsequently created components that eased the display of content on webpages. He made software for the latter available for free, and for years message boards featured expressions of admiration for his work- and appreciation of his generosity.
In 2007 Baldwin made one of his few public gifts to the university, dedicating a substantial portion of a $1.6 million commitment to support research involving the use of adult stem cells to treat illness and repair damage to the body.
“Over the years, David Baldwin’s generosity has catalyzed tremendous academic progress for Case Western Reserve,” Interim President Scott Cowen said. “His legacy will live on in the achievements of faculty and students that his support helped make possible.”
Even as Baldwin’s health declined, he continued to engage with the university on intriguing concepts. One example is the College of Arts and Sciences’ Expanding Horizons Initiative, which first-year Dean Joy Ward announced in the fall. The multi-pronged program seeks to strengthen and expand research, encourage instructional innovation, and ignite interdisciplinary activities that align with priorities of the university’s strategic plan. The effort also emphasizes mentoring of students involved in research.
As Ward shared details about the initiative, Baldwin saw another opportunity to advance meaningful academic endeavors. He directed that $4 million from an earlier broad commitment be used for scientific research and innovation projects within the College’s initiative.
“David’s support of Expanding Horizons will allow generations of students and faculty to work together to help solve some of society’s greatest challenges,” Ward said.
As grateful as she was for Baldwin’s backing of the initiative, however, the dean also felt profound appreciation for the opportunity to talk with him about his life and ideas. He and his late wife Virginia had made generous donations to programs for the homeless and victims of domestic violence in St. Petersburg, Florida.
“He was an extremely humble, wise and thoughtful person,” Ward said. “I am better for knowing him and he will be very much missed.”