During the past fifty years Marion Baumgardner has earned many titles, including: dedicated teacher, respected soil scientist, trusted mentor and committed servant. And while the research that undergirds his career has led him to be called "Dr. Remote Sensing" among his colleagues, the Purdue University community could well call him "Dr. Global Agriculture" for the legacy of international and cultural awareness that he has given to the campus and for the international collaborations and partnerships he has built during his journeys to more than 110 countries.
Following his graduation from Texas Tech University in 1950, Baumgardner accepted a three-year appointment
from the Methodist Board of Global Ministries to teach at the Allahabal Agricultural Institute in north India. When he returned to the U. S., he entered graduate school at Purdue. Baumgardner earned both his M.S. and Ph.D. from Purdue, in 1955 and 1964, respectively.
Baumgardner served three years (1959-1962) as the director of the Indiana Soil Testing Lab at Purdue. In 1961 he was named an instructor in the Agronomy Department, and in 1964 he was appointed to the faculty of the department. During his 36 years as a teacher, the courses Baumgardner taught included Introductory Soils, Soil and Water Conservation, Intermediate Soil Science, Soil-Water-Air Contamination, Remote Sensing of Land Resources, and Global Awareness. Global Awareness, Agronomy 350, was initiated by Baumgardner and now draws more than 120 students each spring semester, students representing nearly all departmental disciplines at Purdue. In the early 1990's he chaired the Dean of Agriculture's committee which internationalized the curriculum for Purdue Agriculture students to better prepare them for the workplace of the 21st century. Baumgardner's first assignment as a Purdue faculty member was a two-year stint as a program specialist in Argentina. When he returned in 1966, he joined the research program of the Laboratory for the Applications of Remote Sensing (LARS). His primary research interest was the relationship among spectral properties of soils and their physical, chemical and biological characteristics, always seeking ways to use remote sensing to effectively map and monitor changes in soil and land resources from the local to the global scale.
Close to home, Baumgardner has served his local United Methodist Church in many capacities. He recently led an effort to raise relief funds for Central American flood victims, and he retired in 1998 from 30 years of teaching an adult Bible class. A member of Lafayette Kiwanis Club since 1972, he served as club president (1983-1984) and recently co-chaired the local club's effort to raise $10,000 (at last count, the project had exceeded the goal by at least $3,000) for Kiwanis International's joint effort with UNICEF to eliminate iodine deficiency disorder, a major cause of mental retardation among 500 million of the world's most vulnerable children. He is also a member of the board of the Museums at Prophetstown, a 300 acre project within the new 3,000 acre Prophetstown State Park. He chairs the Museums' Prairie Restoration Committee that will restore about 200 acres to natural prairie grasses and wild flowers.
Baumgardner's work has been recognized by his peers who have elected him a Fellow in the American Society of Agronomy, the American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Soil Science Society of America and the Indiana Academy of Science. He has received honorary doctorate degrees from DePauw University, Greencastle, and G6d6ll6 Agricultural University in Hungary.