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Zach Baldridge

Renaissance Man

Zach Baldridge, Longwood University Class of '95, melds his passions for art and physics to fuel a rewarding career in home building.

College is the perfect time to explore all of your interests, even when they're as disparate as art and physics. Zach Baldridge found that he could pursue both at Longwood, where his professors supported him in the classroom and beyond, whether he wanted to discuss theory or take on new projects. While he ultimately focused on art and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, Baldridge left Longwood with a foundation that prepared him for the career of his dreams-and allowed him to build on each step along the way.

Many students leave college unsure of exactly what career they want to pursue in the long term. Baldridge was no exception. After graduating from Longwood, he chose to attend graduate school to study jewelry-making and metalwork. While he gained invaluable experience using computer-aided design (CAD) systems for new applications, he decided to leave the program early and pursue full-time job opportunities.

Baldridge joined Ericsson, a global provider of telecommunications equipment and services, where he designed tooling and mechanical parts for robots assembling cell phones. He came in with a strong understanding of structure, a vital element in the study of fine arts. While there, he accumulated a great deal of design knowledge-expanding beyond what is aesthetically pleasing to a deeper understanding of how form and function align.

When the Ericsson plant closed, Baldridge moved to another engineering firm that specialized in design for nuclear equipment. However, a decision he made off the clock proved to be the pivotal moment in launching his long-term career focus. He wanted to build his own house.

"It was a pretty crazy design, and the builders I approached gave me an estimate that was too high. So I decided to do it myself," said Baldridge. "Honestly, it was a nightmare at first. I had some great subcontractors-and some terrible ones. But in the end, we had a pretty neat house, and my friends who were realtors thought it was really interesting. So I started designing for their clients-people who couldn't find what they wanted. It all took off from there."

One project led to another, and in 2004, Baldridge launched a career designing and building customized homes. Since then, he has built a successful business, True Custom, Inc., with 24 homes to his name. He enjoys working closely with his clients on each one to perfect every detail. In their shop, Baldridge and his employees take on the work needed for unique touches, such as carving wooden doors, sandblasting glass windows and casting aluminum for light fixtures - all materials with which he learned to work as a student at Longwood.

"Longwood is an environment that really allows you to grow as a person. I'm very hands-on, and I got to experience that kind of learning in everything from my art classes to my position as a resident assistant," Baldridge said. "I also really appreciated the support and encouragement my professors showed, especially as I faced my dilemma between art and physics."

The dilemma he faced as an undergraduate has become an asset for Baldridge. He uses the principles of physics and art every day to create just the right homes for his clients.

"I just love my artwork. I've done so many different kinds-jewelry, stained glass, woodworking, metalwork-and I get to use so many different elements in the homes we build," said Baldridge. "There's pride in what I've done and in making people happy. Other projects I worked on in the past might have been thrown away, canceled or discontinued before their useful life span was up. The homes we design will last 100 years or more. We get to leave something meaningful behind."

Learn more about Longwood’s Department of Art or learn more about the Department of Chemistry and Physics.