College of Agriculture


Dick and Marian Baldy

When Dick and Marian Baldy arrived on the Chico State campus, they both knew that they wanted to teach and make a difference. Little did they know how big of a difference they would make, or in what ways they would do so.

With a PhD in plant physiology from UC Davis, Dick was hired in the fall of 1970 to teach pomology and master’s degree courses in what was then the College of Agriculture, Engineering, and Nursing.

“In my specialty, I was essentially a one-person department,” Dick said. “It was a wonderful opportunity to develop courses as I saw fit and follow my own vision.”

The courses that Dick developed over the next 30 years helped shape the core of the agriculture curriculum that exists today. He developed the Introduction to Plant Science course, which meets the life science general education (GE) requirement for students across campus. He also created another GE class, Food Forever, which looks at how ecological factors, technology, and societal values interact to determine food production and food choices around the globe. In the early 1990s, when the College of Agriculture was instructed to change its direction or risk elimination, Dick designed a senior project program that would give undergraduates the kind of research experience that most students don’t receive unless they go on to graduate school.

Marian said of Dick, “During our tenure at Chico State, the college went through some really rough times. Using a term from the Olympics gymnastics competitions, Dick was always able to ‘stick the landing,’ so to speak. He has the intellectual flexibility and imagination to adapt to the situation and come out okay.”

One of his favorite challenges, Dick said, was when he came back to campus after intersession one January and was told he was teaching plant pathology in the spring. With basically a weekend to prepare, Dick said, “My goal was for my students not to know that I was not an expert in plant pathology. I think I pulled it off!”

While Dick came from an agricultural background, growing up on a dairy farm in Madera County, Marian came to agriculture through her love of science. On her first day of freshman biology as a 13-year-old high school student, the teacher wrote a note on the blackboard that would set her career in motion: Biology = Bios + Logos (the study of life).

“I knew that was exactly what I wanted to do with my life,” Marian recalled. She became a high school laboratory assistant, then got started at UC Davis as a National Science Foundation Undergraduate Research Participation Program fellow. Through that program she worked on a research project on livestock blood typing and decided that the applied nature of agriculture research appealed to her.

Dick and Marian met at UC Davis in 1965 and were married four months later. While Dick pursued his PhD in plant physiology, Marian earned her master’s degree and PhD in genetics. They spent two years in post-doctorate positions in Portland, Ore., and when Dick was hired at Chico State, Marian came along as a “trailing spouse” who was determined to teach. When the biology department turned her down, she developed a new class in agricultural genetics, and the ag school hired her to teach it.

“Even though I wasn’t a full-time faculty member, I started acting like one,” Marian said. She taught agricultural business, introductory accounting, animal breeding, and ag genetics her first semester. She attended faculty meetings, assuming she belonged there.

It was at one of these faculty meetings that a discussion took place about the lack of high-enrollment courses in the agriculture school. Marian and Dick went home that night and put together a proposal for a new course in wine appreciation. By the next semester she was teaching a full lecture hall in Ayres 120. That class would become one of the most popular at the University. In the world of academia, where funding is based on full-time equivalent students (FTE), the FTEs generated by the wine appreciation class have helped provide the necessary resources to build the agriculture program.

Marian may have created the wine appreciation class so that she would have something to teach, but over the course of 30 years, she became an internationally recognized expert. She wrote a popular textbook, The University Wine Course, as well as countless papers on wine and wine education. She received the USDA National Teaching Award in 1994, the American Wine Society’s prestigious Merit Award in 2002, and the Introduction to Wine course was recognized for Exemplary Online Instruction at CSU, Chico in 2004.

In 1974, Marian became the first female tenure-track professor in the agriculture department. Marian acknowledges that it was not an easy path, but she is proud of the road that she has paved for the women who followed her. Today, five of the 15 tenure-track faculty in the College of Agriculture are women, including the dean.

Dick and Marian both took part in the Faculty Early Retirement Program in the early 2000s and officially retired from the College of Agriculture in 2005. They have remained active, enjoying their “adoptive” grandchildren, taking care of Dick’s parents, and traveling the world. The Baldys are very involved in their Buddhist Sangha, and Dick has become an accomplished photographer. His work has been featured at Upper Crust Bakery, Avenue 9 Gallery, and several other galleries around Chico.

From developing courses and building programs, to mentoring students and alums, the Baldys have had an impact on the College of Agriculture that will not soon be forgotten. The couple was inducted into the College of Agriculture’s Hall of Honor during a reception at the University Farm on Oct. 6, 2012