Environmental Engineering Pioneer C. Robert Baillod Passes Away

Charles Robert “Bob” Baillod, a pioneer in the field of environmental engineering, passed away Thursday, April 12, at his home in Pointe Mills Estate in the presence of his family.

He came to Michigan Technological University in 1968 and chaired the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering from 1991 to 2005.

“He was chair for 14 years,” said his friend and colleague Professor Neil Hutzler, who served as chair himself after Baillod stepped down. “Most people couldn’t have taken it that long, but he liked doing what he did.”

For Baillod, being chair allowed him to be a powerful advocate for his department and its people. “He fought hard for the department,” Hutzler said. “He was always thinking about what would benefit the department and the University.”

“He encouraged me to apply for a position here when I was a grad student, and I got it,” Hutzler added. “He was a dear friend and a mentor all my career.”

In 1982, Baillod brought another faculty member on board: David Hand, who is now the department chair. “The environmental engineering profession has lost one of its founding members,” Hand said. “Bob really put environmental engineering on the map. And he was one of the smartest people I’ve ever met and the best advocate for our department anyone could be, even after his retirement in 2007.

“He was the type of person who didn’t take credit,” Hand added. “He worked behind the scenes helping a lot of faculty become very successful. He was a great mentor to beginning professors, not only from the educational perspective, but also in helping get research funding.”

Baillod also worked to establish the Dow Environmental Sciences and Engineering Building at Michigan Tech and the $10 million EPA-funded National Center for Clean Industrial and Treatment Technologies, or CenCITT.

Baillod’s interests were wide ranging. He was an avid hockey fan and played slo-puck for years. He also enjoyed boating and made many trips to Isle Royale on his 1968 Chris Craft.  “Bob and I were both boaters, and when I was looking into new equipment, he could tell me about all the electronic gadgetry; he had already researched it very well,” Hand said.

“He’d always look at the good in people and encourage them to do better. He was a wonderful person and a wonderful colleague.”

Baillod was born in Milwaukee and worked his way though college in the family’s plastering business. He came to Michigan Tech after earning master’s and PhD degrees in civil and environmental engineering from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.  His teaching and research focused on water and wastewater engineering, with an emphasis on biological wastewater treatment.

This expertise allowed Baillod to play a key roll in the community. Tom Merz, a professor of business and economics and former mayor of Houghton, worked with him for 12 years while Baillod was chair of the Portage Lake Water and Sewage Authority, a post he held for 34 years.

“He played a big role in the new sewage treatment plant coming on line,” Merz said. “His expertise was invaluable, and for a community our size to have access to someone with Bob’s training and willingness to share was extraordinary. He freely gave a lot of time to the authority, and I have nothing but the highest respect for him, both personally and professionally.

“He was a great guy and contributed to this community in a very valuable way.”

Baillod also served on the Torch Lake Public Advisory Council and as a trustee of the Michigan Tech Fund.

Throughout his career, he published more than 50 peer-reviewed papers and guided over 50 students to graduate degrees. Among them was John Sandell. “He was my advisor,” said Sandell, now an associate professor of chemical engineering. “Bob was a true professional with the kindest heart.”

Baillod was a Fellow and life member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and a life member of the Water Environment Federation (WEF).  He served as president of the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors and was on the Board of Trustees of the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and a member of the Michigan Transportation Commission. In addition, he was the founding editor of the Applied Research and Practice Section of The Environmental Engineer. 

“It’s safe to say the civil and environmental engineering program wouldn’t have been anywhere near what it is without his leadership,” Hutzler said. “Back in the 1980s he organized an national conference here, and 10 and 15 years later, I would run into people who said they were here and remembered their experience. He helped put us on the map.”

“We’re all going to miss him,” Hutzler added. “I was going around the department, and everybody has a story about how Bob helped them. He had a huge impact on so many lives.”

Baillod is survived by his wife, Jeanine (Godfried) Baillod; sons Brian (Pam) Baillod and Brendon (Melissa) Baillod of Madison, Wis., and Bradley Baillod of Brooklyn, N.Y.; granddaughter Alayna Baillod; grandson Justin Baillod; sisters Christine (John) Yelich, Margaret Baillod Yeager and Mary Ann (Peter) Luther; brothers-in-law James (Peggy), Joseph and Jon Godfried; sisters-in-law Debra Godfried and Julie (Will) Slough; and nieces and nephews Susan (Waldemar) Biniecki, Joel (Valerie Nye) Yelich, Jimmy Godfried, Victoria and Angela Luther, Philip (Christine) and Cecily Yeager, and Megan Plis; and many cousins, including Louise (Frank) Barnett, Henry (Shirlee) Baillod, Madeline (James) Callahan, and Joann (David) Seibel.

Visitation will be held on Thursday, April 19, from 2 to 4 p.m. at Grace Lutheran Church in South Range with a memorial service at 4 p.m. See www.plowefuneralhome.com for details. In lieu of flowers, memorials to Grace Lutheran Church are appreciated.
The Plowe Funeral Home of Houghton has been assisting the family with the arrangements.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, the University offers more than 125 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.