Joe Baumgaertner '72
Original interview by Thomas Nolan '09
Through the years, thousands of people have passed through Damien High School. Many have been successful and famous. This year’s inductee to the Damien Hall of Fame may not have his name in the papers every day, but that is not to say he isn’t a successful man. Mr. Joe Baumgaertner of the Class of 1972 could attribute Damien with much of his success.
Mr. Baumgaertner grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota where he was educated through the eighth grade. Then, before his freshman year, he moved out west to California and went to Damien High School. “I was nervous since I didn’t know anybody and because of the cultural difference,” said Baumgaertner, “but the school integrated everybody well.”
For most students, this transition would have been difficult. However, as an athlete, Mr. Baumgaertner quickly became part of the football, baseball, and basketball teams at Damien and became a Spartan from the very beginning. “I felt as though I achieved my status through my competence on the field or court,” said Baumgaertner. His Damien experience was just like that of many other students that have passed through the school: extraordinary.
After High School, Mr. Baumgaertner went north to Stanford University for his undergraduate education. While there, he played football and rugby. He graduated majoring in human biology. From there he decided to go on to teaching. He taught at Bellarmine High School, a Jesuit boy’s high school in San Jose, California for a few years before he decided to go back to school to continue his own education. This time, however, Mr. Baumgaertner decided to go back to where the weather was more like his first home, Northwestern University in Chicago. After several years, he earned his Physical Therapy degree and went back to Northern California to practice. Years later, when given the opportunity, Mr. Baumgaertner moved back down to southern California where he now continues to practice physical therapy at Pomona Valley Hospital.
In more recent years, Mr. Baumgaertner has sent his two sons to Damien so that they may have the same great experience and education as their father. Mr. Baumgaertner’s continued support of his alma mater has helped to continuously improve the Damien experience not only for his own children but also many others.
Over the years, the Damien campus has changed. There is now the new Travers- Cronin Athletic Center as well as the new track and field. Some buildings have been added, and others have been taken away. However, according to Mr. Baumgaertner, Damien hasn’t changed at all. “It may have a different tone,” he said, “but it’s still the same core.”
Of the thousands that have passed through and shared in the great Damien experience, only few of its best have been inducted into its Hall of Fame. Mr. Joseph Baumgaertner of the Damien High School Class of 1972 is yet another who well has earned his installation into this group of Damien’s finest. “Damien has shaped my ability to function in the bigger world,” said Baumgaertner. His induction, described by himself, is, “Obviously such a great honor.”