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Alumnus Gives $200,000 Gift to UWRF College

By Lacy Lukaszewicz
University Communications

DEC. 8, 2008--Sixty years after graduating from what is now the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, Lester E. Baribo remembered his alma mater in his will with a gift of $200,000 to the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES).

Baribo got his start in science in the small agricultural education department at the then River Falls State Teachers College. He went on to UW-Madison and earned a master’s degree in bacteriology and a doctorate in bacteriology and biochemistry. Baribo also bequeathed $200,000 to UW-Madison’s bacteriology department.

Dean Dale Gallenberg said the gift will be put to good use at the CAFES. "The College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences is extremely appreciative of the gift of $200,000 from the estate of Lester Baribo,” said Gallenberg. “The funds will help extend and improve our programs through fully or partially funding several projects across the college. These include classroom renovations, equipment purchases, and technology upgrades."

Baribo graduated in 1943 with a B.S. in agricultural education, and according to relatives, had fond memories of time spent on the UWRF campus with faculty and fellow students. Baribo grew up in Wisconsin’s Sawyer County. His family home, according his brother, Lloyd, who lives in Exeland, was a small house with bare 2 x 4s without interior wall coverings.

Despite growing up with very little in the way of material things, Lloyd said Lester had a “scientist thing” going on his entire life. He was determined to discover and always followed through, said Lloyd, and he grew up loving to learn because his mother was a schoolteacher and was the person who initiated his passion for education. In addition, Baribo’s high school teacher in Hayward, Wis., persuaded him to go on to college and specifically, to choose River Falls.

“After he graduated he worked for a dairy company in Neenah, Wis., and later joined the Navy and became an Ensign officer,” said Lloyd. “After the armistices treaty he went to Japan during the occupation. After the Navy he went to UW-Madison and from there he went up to Alaska to pursue a job studying the diseases of fish.” In Alaska, Baribo owned a plane and went from lake to lake and river to river to catch fish for study.

“When our dad died, he came back to Wisconsin and then took a job with Stayles in Decatur, Ill. He was a chemist, and worked for the University of New York Syracuse studying air quality. When his building burned down and he was out of a job, he moved to Washington state and worked for Weyerhaeuser Lumber,” said Lloyd.

Baribo spent the majority of his career as head of the bacteriology department for Weyerhaeuser Company in Seattle, and conducted much research, holding several patents for water purification and other technologies. While working for Weyerhaeuser, Baribo would come back to Wisconsin to work at Weyerhaeuser’s Wausau plant and visit family in the area. After retirement in the late 1970s he became an avid world traveler and visited every continent and almost every country around the world, according to nephew Tom Farnsworth.

“He like traveling and photography and he always had the latest equipment. In his utility shed there were four old refrigerators filled with photos and videotapes of every place on Earth,” said Farnsworth. “When he traveled, he bought souvenir t-shirts and ball caps and when he died I gave 135 new t-shirts and 110 ball caps to a local school for students with disabilities.”

CAFES officials say the gift will go far to be used for a variety of projects. A new water resource lab will be dedicated to Baribo and will be used for water resource and management activities that span three programs within CAFES. Plans also include using the gift to modify the colt barn classroom by adding portable seating and new projection equipment. In addition, technology upgrades will be implemented in two Agricultural Science building classrooms, and the department of agricultural economics will also refurbish its student study lounge.

New instrumentation and equipment will be purchased, and the gift also will be used to support a physical remodel of an existing lab. Finally, laptop computers and a mobile storage cart will be purchased for use by teams of students in a variety of lab classes.

"He was a really generous guy, and even paid for the education of some of his nieces and nephews. He received a good education there [UW-River Falls] and that why he liked it, and that’s why he did it,” said Lloyd.

Farnsworth said Baribo was full of gratitude for the education he received. “UW-River Falls and UW-Madison were Baribo’s opportunity to get out of poverty and the world he grew up in,” said Farnsworth. “However, he did not become materialistic after leaving and remained thankful throughout his life.”


Last updated: Thursday, 22-Apr-2010 16:09:20 Central Daylight Time


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