Encouraging Future Generations
Alumni Rob and Sharon Baldwin offer support and encouragement for women from rural Colorado majoring in math or science.
Retired educators and UNC alumni Robert ’62, ’81 and Sharon (Widdifield) Baldwin ’62, ’79, EdD ’84 found a way to continue to impact the lives of Colorado students beyond their years spent at the front of the classroom.
Rob and Sharon both grew up in rural eastern Colorado communities. Despite excelling in math and science in high school, Sharon felt she had to major in a field that was considered more acceptable for women at the time.
“In the 50s, girls didn’t do math or science,” Sharon says. “I was the only girl in Algebra II, and I was the only girl in Physics.”
Sharon says she realized later, while teaching fifth grade and completing advanced degrees at UNC, that if she had only been encouraged to pursue her interests in STEM, she might have chosen a different career path.
“I didn’t have the nerve to do it then,” Sharon says, “but I thought there may be another girl from a small town like Limon, Hugo or Eads on the eastern Colorado plains, who was thinking about majoring in math or science. Then our scholarship would be of some assistance.”
During his time teaching sixth grade, Rob also observed that many female students were still reluctant to pursue math or science. Rob and Sharon decided together that they could help make a difference.
The couple established the Robert C. and Sharon L. Baldwin Math and Science Scholarship for female students from rural Colorado majoring in math or science at UNC.
“We both really enjoyed our years at UNC,” says Rob. “We aren’t that wealthy, but we’ve been successful, and we just wanted a way to give back.”
It has always been their hope that this scholarship will encourage future generations of young women to expand their educational possibilities and career paths.
UNC student Grace Tucker ’21 is one of more than 20 students to receive the Baldwins’ scholarship.
“This scholarship made an incredible impact on my education as I finished school at UNC,” Tucker says. “I am incredibly grateful for this scholarship and the opportunities it will help me to pursue.”
Rob and Sharon contribute to the scholarship fund each year with an IRA charitable rollover, which allows donors 70½ years and older to exclude the rollover from their adjusted gross income as a qualified charitable distribution gifted to the University and to count toward their annual minimum required distribution.
“It’s just an easy thing to do,” Sharon says about giving to UNC. “What we’re giving is a small thing. The students are doing the hard work. We just provide a little bit of encouragement.”
Rob and Sharon both received scholarships as students, and they hope future recipients continue to pay it forward.
“Maybe these kids will look back and do the same thing,” Rob says. “Maybe they’ll support a college or university somewhere and continue to help more students. We’re going to continue to give as long as we’re around. It’s just silly not to.”