H.L. Baker is a 1961 Anderson College graduate. Since then, he has served at the institution in several capacities, including as the director of financial services, dean of students and as part of the president’s executive staff. Baker retired from a position as a development officer in June of 2017.
Q: How did you end up at AU?
A: I’m from a little town outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma. I wasn’t a Christian until I was 18 or so. Some of the kids from the youth group I started going to were coming to Anderson.
I had dropped out of state school in Oklahoma and had been driving a truck for a few years, but I needed to go back to school, and these guys were going to school here, so I came here in the fall of 1957.
I ran out of money, like kids do, because I was on my own, and transferred back to the University of Tulsa. But after I was here for a semester, I knew this is where I belonged.
Q: What was your path at AU like?
A: I graduated in 1961, but before that I went to school in Oklahoma for one year, dropped out for two years, came to Anderson for one semester, dropped out for one semester and came back in 1958. Then I stayed and graduated. So I took different paths.
Everyone’s got a story I guess. I was a business major, and I think I had an English minor probably just to have a minor.
I lived in Dunn Hall every semester except for that last one. I graduated mid-year, got married in November 1960, my last semester here, and went into the Army.
In those days, the semester didn’t end with Christmas break; it ended around Jan. 25, so you had to come back after Christmas and do a week or so of classes and then finals. So that first semester was my last one; I was married in November, and then when I got out in January, I went into the service in February.
Q: Where did you go after graduation?
A: I went into the Army for six months, then the Army Reserves for six years, but six months I was active duty. When I was stationed in Georgia, I got a call from AU asking if I would come back and work for a year. They didn’t know if the job would last any longer than that, and they couldn’t commit more than a year.
I had a job lined up at Marathon Oil Company promised to me when I got out of the service, but they were willing to hold the job for a year. My wife wanted to graduate from AU, and she had one year left, so it worked out well.
I could come for a year, she could finish schooling, and then I could go to Findlay, Ohio and work for Marathon Oil. Well, after being here a year, I was asked to stay more than a year, and I stayed for 40 years, from 1961-2001. I retired the first time in 2001.
Q: What positions have you held at AU?
A: I was a financial aid counselor when I started. It was really interesting and enjoyable. The whole bit was about students. I’m not sure for how long I really did that, probably about 10 years.
I then became the associate dean of students. I stayed at student life and was in charge of financial aid for awhile. For about 20 years, 1983, I was the dean of students. President Reardon retired and Dr. Nicholson, who was the dean, became president, and then I became the dean. From the last 15 years of working, I was the chief student development officer, kind of like the vice president for student life.
I retired in 2001, was gone five years, and then came back to work part time as a development officer. I am super biased about AU, primarily because of what it did for me and what I think it does for kids, with the faculty and care and quality of education. I worked 11 years part-time in the development office. On June 1 of this year, I retired again.
It was time. I like being here, and there are great people, but I was 80 years old. I knew in my head retiring was the right thing to do, even though my heart wasn’t in the same place.
Q: You have some ties here, tell me about those.
A: I met my wife Sandy here. My son and daughter graduated from here. My son Brent came here in 2001 as the student life vice president. Sandy’s brother and sister-in-law were both here, and all four of Sandy’s nephews graduated from AU. My grandsons—Logan, Jordan and Jared—are all here and presumably will graduate. Well, Logan already has, but I’m thinking Jordan and Jared will too.
Q: What sets AU apart?
A: Well, the quality of education was good and still is. AC students even then were known to be qualified people. Faculty and staff cared for the students, as they still do, outside of the classroom and where they want to go. They were Christ followers then and now and attempted to honor God in all they did. This was very impressive.
The faculty sets it apart as well. When I came back in 1958, I was late getting back, because I wasn’t even sure I was coming, and they didn’t have any rooms open right away. I lived in Dr. Falls’, of the Falls School of Business, basement for two or three weeks until there was room in the dorms. It worked out great, and his wife also washed my clothes. I was blessed.
Q: How have you seen campus change over the years?
A: It was Anderson College when I was here, and the culture and dorm life were very different. Women had to be in at 10:30 p.m. every night, midnight on weekends, and they had to sign out. If they were late getting back in, even 10 minutes, they could get “campused,” which meant they couldn’t leave and had to stay in their rooms.
Men, on the other hand—this is the fun part—didn’t have hours. We had dorm mothers, house mothers, so every week they would deliver clean pillowcases and sheets to the men. The women didn’t get that.
Mobility is sure different. If you had a car, you couldn’t get financial aid. They thought if you had a car, then the money being put into the car could have been put into college expenses. Most everything that happened in terms of activities happened on campus, so there was no need to have a car for almost all students.
Everyone also had a meal ticket, and everyone had the same thing. When you went through the line, you had very few options, if any. Take it or leave it. The food was okay, cafeteria food, but the people survived.
Q: What does homecoming mean to you, then?
A: Homecoming is a wonderful time, especially because the work I did in student life enabled me to know students as back as far as 1958. Seeing alumni I worked with is neat, too. Relationships are the big deal. We look forward to homecoming.
Q: What do you think about this being the centennial year?
A: This place is here because God’s plan was in this from the very beginning. From a Bible school to moving into a liberal arts school, it’s here for a reason and it will stay. It’s stronger. I am very biased and supportive of AU.