UMKC alumnus gives back with gift to scholarship that changed his life

Alumnus and donor Rollie R. Baldwin

By Patricia O’Dell

The Honorable Rollie R. Baldwin, a recipient of the Victor Wilson Scholarship at UMKC, has lived a life of steady focus and advancement. He recently fulfilled his dream to contribute to the scholarship fund that made such a significant difference in his success.  “I always wanted to give something back,” Baldwin says.

Baldwin, now 86, had to leave his family as a child during the Great Depression. “I was raised by my great-aunt and uncle,” he says. “I went from a family of eight to being by myself, but I felt very fortunate.  I had food, clothing and shelter.  Not everyone did.”

“My aunt was concerned about my education,” remembers Baldwin.  “My uncle didn’t finish high school. He thought the whole thing was a huge waste of time.”

Baldwin’s great-aunt was so focused on his education that she moved the family from the country to 11th and Harrison streets in Kansas City so Baldwin could attend better schools.

“It was good for me. I had a good moral upbringing and I studied hard. My aunt convinced me I could go to college.”

Baldwin had already developed a strong work ethic. Before moving to town he rode a small pony to deliver water to field workers. Once in Kansas City, he stocked shelves in neighborhood grocery stores. Later he filled orders at Hallmark Cards. “We roller skated on the concrete floors pulling product,” he recalls with a chuckle.

This drive and his strong academic record prepared him for the education his aunt wanted for him. Baldwin received a Victor Wilson Scholarship in 1949, which supported his pursuit of his undergraduate degree in psychology.

“Part of the requirement of the scholarship was maintaining a B average,” says Baldwin. While he had always made Bs – and usually better – he said the pressure to maintain the scholarship sharpened his focus.

Baldwin went on to complete his law degree at UMKC (then Kansas City University).  He was licensed for 58 years, including serving 25 years as a Clay County probate judge in Excelsior Springs, Mo. Baldwin raised three children with his wife of 67 years, Juanita.  Once he retired and felt his children were taken care of, he fulfilled his wish of giving back to the Victor Wilson Scholarship Fund.

“If I hadn’t gotten that scholarship, I probably would have been an auto mechanic,” Baldwin says. “It would have been a good life, but I wouldn’t have had the chance to help my children the way I have. It was important to me. I’m just trying to give back a little bit.”

To apply to the Victor Wilson Scholarship Fund, students must be admitted to UMKC full time, be current or long-time citizens of Kansas City and demonstrate financial need. Find more information at  To support scholarship funds, please contact the UMKC Foundation at 800-662-8652 or 816-235-5778 or email