As this year closes and we reach toward the new one, I cannot help but be reminded to not only embrace all of the newness and promise that a fresh year holds for us, but also to reflect back on those we’ve lost.

Recently, we learned of the passing of one our most beloved associate members and partners, Sean Baum, who lost his life on November 22, 2021, to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) at the too-young age of 51.

Like many diagnoses, Sean’s was a shock. Who could imagine that someone so vibrant and full of life would be faced with such a disease. Yet we learned that, with the same passionate advocacy he exhibited for his work in school business, he dove right in to learn more, to find ways to contribute to the battle for more and better research, to cope in the most positive way he could.

One only needed to briefly browse his Twitter feed of the past couple years to see that!

CASBO recently reached out to some of Sean’s colleagues, and what we heard back were stories of this same penchant for networking and the customary jovial spirit that our staff was lucky enough to know.

It was clear evidence that no matter where he went or who he met, those bright and beautiful qualities touched a lot of people. And so, in tribute to our colleague and friend, we’d like to share some of what we know about Sean.

Early Life

Sean Baum was born and raised in Belmond, Iowa. He moved to California in 1988 to attend San Jose State University, earning his B.S. in journalism. He decided to stay in California, beginning his career working for a number of commercial and educational furniture dealers, and cementing himself as a devoted fan of his beloved San Francisco Giants.

Sean eventually made his permanent home in Brentwood, but he really found his professional home in 2008 when he joined MeTEOR Education (known then as Contrax Furnishings) as its second California employee. Instrumental in establishing his company’s presence in California, he served in various roles, including regional sales manager; learning environment specialist; vice president of sales, West; and senior vice president of market development.

School Business Life

Sean was a passionate advocate for humanizing the education machine in ways that allowed him to give our teachers, children and communities an opportunity to thrive in a positive and soulful environment.

He also loved networking with the organizations, companies and people who shared an interest in making a true change in education. He brought this same love to his work here at CASBO, where he served as member, assistant chair and chair of the CASBO Associate Member Committee (AMC) and where you could always find him at a CASBO event, making people feel welcome and forging new connections in his near-constant efforts to improve education.

“Sean was an incredible guy that pushed all around him — co-workers, district customers, suppliers, anyone within earshot — to be better and do better. But he always did it in a compassionate, understanding way,” said Patrick Horne, managing director of MeTEOR’s California Studio.

Patrick first met Sean when they were both serving as associate member liaisons to the CASBO AMC. He counts this relationship as an integral part of why he jumped at the chance to hire Sean in 2008. “Anyone who spent time with Sean is better for the experience,” he says. “His big personality and booming voice will truly be missed.”

One close AMC colleague, Harold Freiman, an attorney with Lozano Smith, described a lasting memory of Sean from when they worked together to complete an AMC-initiated public school garden project. Sean eagerly undertook the lead on building planter boxes and a new fence. Throughout, even while pouring cement or lugging planks here and there on an increasingly warm day, he kept the mood light, making wisecracks and witty observations, and generally making the building of a fence one of the more pleasant outings Harold had ever had. He recounted that Sean reminded him in that moment of Tom Sawyer, painting the fence and persuading everyone else to join in, with the difference that he kept right on going with the work.

That was the way that Sean seemed to do everything.  He was an enthusiastic AMC member who brought everyone else in the group along to build and grow things.

In addition to serving as one of CASBO’s member-leaders, Sean also participated as a member on the Learning Environments of the Future Committee and in two K-12 MindShift Summits that resulted in the books, “Humanizing the Education Machine” and “WHOLE: What Teachers Need to Help Students Thrive.”

A member of the International Interior Design Association, Sean knew his craft. His CASBO colleagues appreciated how his design, space planning and programming skills helped determine what world-class learning environments should look like and how they should function to best serve our students.

What We’ll Remember

A snippet from a GoFundMe account on Sean’s behalf says that he went by many names: “Son, husband, brother, dad, cousin, son-in-law, brother-in-law, co-worker. And the less formal — Smart Ass, Star Wars geek, Baumer, Toadster, Rap City, Vodka Lover, Kappa Sig, Golf Hacker.”

A good nickname is always proof that you are beloved, and we’re not surprised to hear he had quite a few. He obviously touched so many in unforgettable ways, including so many of us here at CASBO.

“Sean, our longstanding associate member, partner and AMC member, was very well known in the school community. My heart goes out to his family and friends. I’ll always remember him as a vivacious, fun-loving, witty person and a dedicated professional. We at CASBO will feel his loss for a long time to come.” – Tatia Davenport, CEO, CASBO

“When I joined the AMC, Sean was one of the first to welcome me. He took the time to sit with me and discuss what the expectations would be. He assured me it would be hard work and good fun, and both turned out to be correct. Sean did everything with a sense of joy and enthusiasm. As AMC chair, he was doggedly focused on how we could make CASBO a stronger organization. He was tireless in his devotion to CASBO and the AMC and always wore a smile and brought one to the rest of us. He will be sorely missed.” – Harold Freiman, Attorney, Lozano Smith

“Sean was such an amazing person, and I know he was very well loved by everyone. He and I would exchange stories about our kids when he came into the CASBO office. He was very funny! I’ll miss our visits.” – Michelle Neto, Governance Liaison, CASBO

“Sean Baum. Booming voice and beaming smile. Sean sincerely cared about education and was a valued resource to many. As silly as he could be, he was also creative and brilliant. I learned a great deal from Sean and am better at my job because of him. But more importantly, I’m a better person for having been Sean’s friend. A man of innate integrity, heartwarming humor and genuine care of others. This one hurts. The world was a better place with Sean in it. Hopefully we can all channel a little of Sean into our lives to offset some of the loss. My heart goes out to Sean’s beautiful and loving family.” – Drew McAlister, Account Executive, Tarkett

“I’m very saddened by the loss of Sean Baum. He was that person you could always count on to show up if you needed something, or be there as a resource for others, willing to take the time to share his life experience. He was such a people person — always that ‘good guy’ who was there for me when I needed him, and he always did it with a genuine smile and a positive attitude. – Gail Hillis, Former Director, Membership Services, CASBO

It all tracks with me. Sean was one of the first CASBO partners I ever met. It was at the CASBO 2015 Annual Conference in San Diego, and he could not have been more welcoming or kind to this newbie in school business, and he continued to be that same presence in every meeting I had with him. His passing is a big loss for our industry … and the planet.

Sean is survived by his wife, Jamie; daughter, McKenna; and son, Colby. Our hearts go out to his family and many friends and colleagues.

Rest in peace, Sean, and know that we will never forget you.