From fine arts to facilities management, Kathleen Baldwin is now in the zone

L.A. Cicero Kathleen  Baldwin

Kathleen Baldwin, building services manager for Zone C, is one of 3 recipients of the 2009 Amy J. Blue award.

For Kathleen "KB" Baldwin, appreciating one's surroundings is essential. That's what she does when she takes long walks with her beloved yellow Labrador. She supports the preservation of natural environments so future generations can appreciate their beauty. And as a fine arts graduate, she worked as a print maker for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

So it makes sense that Baldwin went from working with Rembrandts to overseeing plumbing and air conditioners. As a facilities manager in Buildings and Grounds Maintenance, Baldwin takes great pride in making sure people can work in places where lights turn on and toilets flush. She is in charge of Zone C, which includes the Law School and Green Library—facilities that put her daily duties in perspective.

"You're dealing with a lot of the buildings that the students are in, so you get to remember, 'Oh, yeah, I'm here for them,'" Baldwin said. "I'm here for them to have a really good education and be able to pursue their dreams."

Baldwin's motivation and work ethic have earned her one of this year's Amy J. Blue Awards, which "honor staff members who are exceptionally dedicated, supportive of colleagues and passionate about their work," according to the award's website.

"I'm very honored," Baldwin said. "I'm also very surprised, because there are so many people on campus that I feel have the same qualities that I do."

In addition to her primary role of organizing building maintenance with property managers, Baldwin works with her team to implement sustainability practices. She encourages lights equipped with energy-saving motion detectors and computers that shut off when idle. Baldwin's passion for the environment helps drive this aspect of her job.

"We are really big on sustainability—not just for Stanford, but for the world," Baldwin said.

After earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the College of Charleston in South Carolina, Baldwin drove cross-country to the San Francisco Bay Area, where she has resided since 1979. After cutbacks at the Fine Arts Museums eliminated Baldwin's job as a print maker, the facilities manager offered to show her the ropes in building operations.

"I always loved to figure out how things work," Baldwin said. "How buildings are put together and built just fascinated me." She remained with the museums until 1996.

Baldwin first came to Stanford in 1998 after museum director Thomas Seligman asked if she was interested in working for what would become the Cantor Arts Center. After she accepted a position as facilities manager, Baldwin began working 15-hour days to help refurbish the museum, which had been seriously damaged in the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989. The museum re-opened in 1999. The venture remains one of her proudest professional accomplishments.

In 2000, Baldwin's boss asked her if she was interested in managing one of the four core-campus zones.

"I was ready for a new challenge," Baldwin said. Managing Zone C brought her closer to the student body, whose energy Baldwin finds very refreshing. "I really am glad I moved here."

Outside of work, Baldwin is a supporter of social justice charities such as Oxfam and Project Open Hand. Though she has been busy with work and other commitments, she feels that she is ready to roll up her sleeves and begin volunteering again.

One of Baldwin's colleagues, trades and crafts supervisor Sukhdev Manman, nominated Baldwin because of her positive attitude and ability to expedite the administrative side of building maintenance.

"KB is actually the secret spring which makes all the facilities departments move," Manman wrote to the awards committee.

Award winners receive a $3,000 cash prize and an "A" parking sticker that is valid for the following year. The annual awards honor Amy Blue, a former associate vice president for administrative services and facilities, who died of brain cancer in 1988. Her loved ones established an endowment to honor staff members who share Blue's values of dedication and commitment.

There was, however, one more perk Baldwin wished would come with the award: "I had to do my six-month review with my boss, and I just wrote on it, 'I'm an Amy Blue winner,'" Baldwin joked. Undeterred, her boss told her she still needed to fill out the rest of her self-evaluation.

Emmanuel Romero is an intern at the Stanford News Service.