Jeff Bauman ('03) Bequest Benefits Chess Club

In life, Jeff Bauman was a faithful and dedicated promoter of chess in Elkhart County, and now in death his love for the game lives on with his generous bequest to benefit local youth interested in chess.

Bauman, a former player and coach at Bethany Christian Schools and Goshen Community Schools, died Feb. 26, 2011—two days short of his 26th birthday—from cholangiocarcinoma (cancer of the bile duct). Concerned in particular about the future of the chess club at Bethany, where he graduated in 2003, Bauman desired that money from his estate be used so that students could benefit from the same opportunity that he had.

Bauman first started playing chess competitively as a third-grader at Parkside Elementary School, playing in tournaments every year through high school, an unofficial record (according to longtime Elkhart County chess promoter and tournament director Joe Riegsecker) surpassed only by Bauman’s younger brother, Mark, four-time Elkhart County champ. In 2001-03 Jeff Bauman played first or second board on Bethany teams that placed third, fifth, and sixth in the state, respectively. When he graduated he had a U.S. Chess Federation rating of 1549, which places him among the top half-dozen scholastic players in Elkhart County in the last decade.

While a student at Goshen College (2003-07), Bauman assisted Dan Shenk in coaching Bethany’s chess club, and then, following a year of voluntary service with Mennonite Mission Network in LaJara, Colo., assisted with chess coaching at Bethany, with a home-school club, and in several settings for Goshen Community Schools’ Chess for Scholastic Success program.

Shenk—who co-founded Chess for Scholastic Success in 1993, restarted Bethany’s chess club in the late 1990s, and coached Bauman in elementary school through high school—has high regard for Bauman as both a chess player and coach. He recalls buying middle-schooler Bauman and a friend a steak dinner after they had teamed up to defeat him in a game played during a bus ride. Regarding Bauman’s coaching, Shenk says, “Jeff was invariably kind and patient with the students he was teaching and coaching. His passion for the game, along with his compassion for his students, set him apart as a coach and mentor of young people.”

Riegsecker agrees. “When I think of Jeff, I don’t necessarily think of chess first. I mostly remember what a good kid he was. He was good with little kids—patient and gentle.” Riegsecker describes Bauman as his most faithful tournament assistant and recalls how Bauman, though likely already ill with cancer, virtually ran the 2010 county tournament when Riegsecker and his wife both became ill themselves. Riegsecker continues, “I would love to walk into any club and find a dozen kids with Jeff’s attitude and ability. Or, if I were a kid, I’d love to have Jeff walk in as my coach.”

Jeff Bauman Memorial: (front) chess club members Kassy Miller (grade 5) and Tim Cartmel (grade 6); (back) Adam Krahn (grade 10), Dan Shenk, Dennis Monokroussos, Joe Riegsecker, Connie Bauman, Stacy Krahn (club director), Phil Bauman.Jeff Bauman Memorial: (front) chess club members Kassy Miller (grade 5) and Tim Cartmel (grade 6); (back) Adam Krahn (grade 10), Dan Shenk, Dennis Monokroussos, Joe Riegsecker, Connie Bauman, Stacy Krahn (club director), Phil Bauman.The Goshen chess community received word of Bauman’s passing toward the end of a Feb. 26 tournament at Goshen High School. After Shenk said a few words of remembrance, a moment of silence was observed in Bauman’s honor.

As he had hoped, Bauman’s memorial gift has helped sustain Bethany’s chess club, which has climbed to a record 20 students this year and includes sophomore Adam Krahn (2011 Elkhart County champ) and sixth-grader Tim Cartmel (recently placed first in the sixth-grade division of the Indiana State Chess Grade-Level tournament). More specifically, the club is using this year’s $1,000 memorial gift to defray expenses for the team’s new coach, USCF master Dennis Monokroussos, and to help all interested club members attend the 2012 national tournament in Minneapolis, Minn.