Rich Bauer: Here For The Long Run
Whether he is running an in-plant or training for his next marathon, Rich Bauer, service enterprises manager at Southern Illinois University (SIU) Carbondale, strives to perform with the dedication and determination necessary to succeed.
Bauer’s history in the printing industry dates back to 1972 when he began working in the pressroom at World Color Press in Sparta, Ill., just a week after graduating from high school.
“Under my dad’s direction, it was time to go to work,” Bauer, a native of southern Illinois, notes. “And World Color was a good place to get a job. I kind of got into printing blindly, but once I got started, it fascinated me.”
The entry-level position paid minimum wage, a mere $1.60-per-hour at the time. Bauer recalls that working on the shop’s roll-fed letterpresses and offset presses was a very noisy, dirty and hot proposition.
“We always had plenty of DC comic books and monthly magazines to read during lunch because that is what we printed,” he points out. “In 1978, I had an opportunity to transfer to the prepress department. It was quiet, clean and [had] A/C.”
Bauer moved to World Color Press’ new state-of-the-art facility in Mount Vernon, Ill., in 1981, where he helped produce coupons for weekend newspapers and print publications including Time, People and Sports Illustrated for customer Time Inc.
“These magazines were weeklies, and turnaround time was vital to make the shipping deadlines,” he recounts. “Trucks would be lined up waiting to be loaded. What a coordinated rush it was.”
World Color Press shuttered its Mount Vernon operation in 1991, forcing Bauer to find new employment.
“For nine months, I chose to drive 100 miles one-way to St. Louis to work at a prepress house,” Bauer explains. “The work was great, but the long drive added 20 pounds and three inches to my waistline.”
Frustrated with the weight gain, Bauer started running to get back in shape. Now an avid runner, Bauer has crossed the finish line at 16 full marathons, including races in Boston, New York, St. Louis, Cincinnati and Chicago.
Bauer contends that working 7 days a week and 12 hour days was the norm in the early part of his career.
“During those very hard working years, I was blessed with three wonderful daughters,” he proudly states. “I coached all their ball teams and never missed an event they participated in. I was lucky, very grateful, and never regretted the sacrifices I made.”
Bauer’s first stint at SIU Carbondale began in 1992, when he was hired as a prepress technician.
“It is amazing how we did things then compared to how we do things now,” Bauer says, noting the drastic changes in technology he has experienced over his career. “There was more craftsmanship back then.”
In 1996, Bauer and two partners opened their own design and print operation. However, Bauer returned to campus in 2006, this time as a press technician. One year later, he was named superintendent of the print shop.
Bauer was promoted to his current role as service enterprises manager in 2015. He is now oversees Printing and Duplicating Services, Campus Sign Services, Campus Mail Services, Travel Services, Transit Services, Bus Operations and Assisted Van Services and supervises a total of 35 full-time and 40 student workers.
SIU Carbondale has more than 400 vehicles in its fleet, including three 14-passenger buses, one 21-passenger bus, one 23-passenger bus, one 30-passenger bus and a 40-passenger tour train. These vehicles are used for admissions and recruiting trips, as well as to transport disabled students to classes and teams to athletic events.
“I truly believe to be a successful in-plant that everyone needs to know how to do more than one operation,” Bauer says, pointing out that his print staff of 15 full-time and four student employees are cross-trained on various equipment in the shop. “Take pride in what you do, learn everything you can, don’t worry about the things you cannot change, and pray for the disgruntled.”
The in-plant houses a mix of digital, offset and large-format devices. Customers can submit job orders and upload files through the shop’s home-grown digital storefront.
Staying Lean and Mean
Keeping the in-plant lean and productive is key, Bauer says, especially when contending with barren state budgets.
“We have to be the best price in town,” he contends. “We have good equipment and we have good people. It is important to have a good staff. Without that, there is no way to be competitive.”
Bauer scoffs at the notion that print is dead and says that he remains intrigued by new printing technology. After more than 40 years in the industry, he continues to be a proponent of the ink-on-paper process.
“I continue to pay my bills by mail because someone prints the envelope and the paper statement,” he maintains. “My magazine subscriptions are always requested in print. I subscribe to newspapers, which are delivered to my house. I just can’t bring myself to do things online since printing is what I do.”
Outside of the work environment, Bauer enjoys spending time with his 94-year-old father, three daughters and four grandchildren.
“Making time for your family is just as important as your career,” he advises. “I don’t think you can be successful and be happy without both. Everyone needs to learn when to separate one from the other.”
Bauer is also a beekeeper and tends to 20 hives that each contain up to 60,000 bees. Additionally, he maintains a 30-tree pecan orchard. But even with a full family and activity schedule, printing is never far from Bauer’s thoughts.
“Being in the printing industry is really an exciting life,” he concludes.
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