If it needed to be done, Estella Baldwin did it. For someone who mostly stayed put for 37 years, Baldwin built an epic résumé through serving where needed and fostering a time of significant growth at Whitworth. In many ways she lived like a student, mentoring and teaching as a trusted friend and colleague.
Baldwin came to Whitworth in 1931, having worked in public schools in Washougal, Wash., and then at the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (now Biola University). She completed her college degree at Whitworth in 1934, working in the registrar’s office and matriculating in her “spare time.” In 1935 she was promoted to college registrar, a position she held until her retirement 34 years later; in that capacity she developed a records-keeping system that received notice at regional and national conventions.
The same year she was hired as registrar, she moved into an apartment in the newly completed and centrally located home economics building, where she had a unique vantage point for the wee-hours frolics that awakened her from time to time. Meanwhile, she continued to pursue her education: In 1938, she was the first recipient of a master of arts degree conferred at Whitworth, under a program established the previous year by the board of trustees and then-President Ward Sullivan.
In addition to working as registrar, Baldwin managed and later supervised the bookstore, the switchboard and the mimeograph office. In a pinch, when there was no one else to call, she served as a residence counselor in Ballard Hall. She also taught in the Bible department, where her favorite class was The Gospel According to Mark.
And students loved her. In the 1941 Natsihi, students reflected on a rousing performance, during a women’s open-dorm night, of Romeo and Juliet, when Baldwin performed with several other faculty in an apparently hilarious revised version of the Bard’s work that brought the audience to tears of laughter. And through her work in the registrar’s office, she was also instrumental in coming to the aid of foreign students, counseling them and helping them with immigration issues.
In 1956, Baldwin ventured thousands of miles from the campus she loved and taught English and Bible in the Tripoli Girls’ School, in Lebanon, during a sabbatical. In spite of the ongoing Suez Crisis, which curtailed travel, she got to explore much of Europe and the Middle East. Nine years later, she undertook another trip, around the world this time, during which she made a point to visit alumni wherever possible.
Baldwin received the Whitworth Alumni Distinguished Service Award when she retired in 1966. It is a fitting tribute that the name of a woman who was such an integral part of the lifeblood of Whitworth for nearly 40 years also lives on in one of Whitworth’s liveliest residences, Baldwin-Jenkins Hall.