Title: Son succeeds father at AU
By touching the lives of 40 years of students, Dean of Students H. L. Baker left his footprints in Anderson University history. Now as he retires, his son is following in those footprints. When Baker first set foot on the AU campus as a student in 1957, he had no idea that he would end up spending his life on these grounds. Instead, his mind was on making tackles, hitting home runs, and surviving his classes. Yet it was here that H. L. met the woman of his dreams, now his wife of 41 years, Sandy (Moore) Baker.
The couple was married in 1960, and H. L. set off to start a career in business. However, when the position of financial aid counselor became available on campus, he took the job and planned to stay for a year or two while his wife finished her degree.
One or two years soon turned into 40: Baker fell in love with the job. He said, "One feels called to places of service, and this was my calling." In his many years of service, H. L. has served as finanical aid counselor, dean of men, assistant dean, associate dean, dean of student services and dean of students. He fulfilled each of these roles with a sense of humor and a relaxed attitude.
"I like to have fun. I tend to be fairly laid back," Baker said. Although part of his job included discipline, he managed to maintain positive relationships even with the students who were in trouble.
"Dad's always had a way of relating to students who had trouble," Brent Baker, H. L.'s son, said. "Even students who didn't agree with him felt he was fair. Some of them were even at our house for dinner. I think it was his ongoing pursuit of relationships that made a difference in their lives."
Ron Moore, senior vice president at AU and related to H. L. by marriage, describes Baker's work with students as a "felt-pen ministry." He said, "He used to take a felt pen, and with a wide writing stroke and a half-sheet of paper, he would let you know that he was aware of your situation and that he was thinking of you."
Brent's relationship with his father is close. Like his father, Brent attended AU with a major in business. While Brent served as outside linebacker for the football team, his father operated the 10-yard sideline marker because, "It was as close as I could get."
Brent's goal upon graduation was to find a job with a business corporation. As he interviewed for positions, he came to realize that his interests were elsewhere.
"I remember applying for a job with a company that sold ambulances. They had me sit in on a sales meeting. I remember sitting there, listening to them debate costs of ambulances, and thinking 'who cares?' I wanted to work where people are the bottom line, not a financial bottom line," Brent said.
Brent found himself pursuing the same career path as his father. He worked in administrative positions at Georgetown College in Georgetown, Ky.; Colorado Christian University in Lakewood, Colo.; Taylor University in Fort Wayne; and Anderson University. He earned his master's degree in student personnel administration from Ball State University and currently is earning his doctorate in educational leadership administration and foundations from Indiana State University.
Moore said, "H. L. and Brent are both the type of people we call 'lovers.' They both love life, and they both love people. Both have devoted their lives to students."
As his father leaves AU, Brent will take his place as dean of students and add the title vice president for student life.
"I grew up here," Brent said. "I remember being batboy for the baseball team and a football player in the end zones at games. I have a lifetime of memories growing up on this campus. I had a sense that sometime I would be back here. It's part of my faith journey calling me back here. This is the right spot for me."
Brent and his family kicked off Father's Day celebrations early this year with a retirement party on Saturday evening. Brent said that he admires his father for his many years of service and looks forward to picking up where his father left off. He said, "It is an honor to follow in his footsteps."
---Mary Steffel is a staff reporter for the Anderson Herald-Bulletin .