Baldwins Share Lessons on Life, Love at ‘Last Lecture’


Courtney Hampton
Staff Writer

Photo by Justine Estrada

Janice and John Baldwin beamed as they gazed upon the audience in a packed Isla Vista Theater.

“It feels like we’re in a room of friends,” said Janice Baldwin.

On Jan. 31, the couple lectured as if it were their last chance to advise students on matters of life, death, and love as a part of the “Last Lecture” series at University of California, Santa Barbara.

The two happily married professors are famous at UCSB for their sociology course on human sexuality. After lecturing to over 600 students every time the course is offered, they have become well-recognized faculty on the campus and beloved by many students.

“We feel very proud to be here at UCSB with so many hard-working, brilliant young people as we run into,” said John Baldwin.

The Baldwins based their lecture on the idea of the “virtuous spiral.” Instead of harboring negative feelings that lead to vicious downward spirals, the Baldwins proposed that students build their lives into upward, virtuous spirals in order to be mentally, physically, and emotionally alive.

“The only reason to concentrate on death is to try to make sure this life is a good life, that this life is the best life we have because we only have one life,” said Janice Baldwin.

The Baldwins recounted how they met—she was 20 and he was 25; she was at summer school at the University of Miami while he was doing his Ph.D. dissertation there, and they both ended up on a deep sea fishing vessel. They had five weeks together, but they sensed they were with “a kindred spirit” and took the risk of fallling in love.

“Life, if you put yourself into it, will offer you rewards,” said Janice Baldwin. “The idea is that whatever you’re doing to really put your heart in it, to try hard, to be bold, to put yourself out there, to meet people, to do things that are exciting. Don’t wait for life to come to you, because it won’t.”

The Baldwins shared with students the various bits of wisdom they have learned through their lives. Their first lesson was inspired by the architect who helped them finish building their first home. They recalled that the architect was very inspired by his art, and always said that God was in the details.

“Life is an art form and everyone gets to paint their own canvas,” said John Baldwin. “And as you get deeper into it and find out that this is the canvas that you want your life to look like, then you begin to paint with bolder strokes, larger colors; you begin to see it coming through. It makes you feel so good that you did take a bold approach to life.”

Janice Baldwin said that while “painting the canvas,” it is important to reflect on yourself and see if you are the person you want to be. She explained that people change, but it’s important to do a “reality check” every once in awhile.

John Baldwin condoned the idea that people be generous with each other.

“When you are a child, it is hard to be generous with other people because you haven’t learned enough things that you can give to other people,” he said. “But as you work your way up your virtuous spiral, many of you will get to the point that you feel more and more happy that you can share your talents and skills with other people.”

They expressed their happiness while teaching and seeing their students grow, adding that they never plan on leaving the UCSB community. The Baldwins spent the last few minutes of their lecture explaining that students can create virtuous spirals in their own lives.

“You can grab onto the things that you love; you can find people who love similar things that you love, and you can see if you can find a way to take the things that you love to the next highest level,” said John Baldwin.

Janice closed the lecture by reminding students that they are part of the future and are going to make positive contributions to the world.

“We know you’ll go through some difficult times. It’s not all rosy and it’s not something that’s easy, but you’ll succeed because you’ll have the tools and abilities,” she said.