Throwback Thursday John C. Baker

It was during the closing months of World War II when John C. Baker took the reins as president of Ohio University. His credentials were first rate as a graduate, a professor and an assistant dean all at Harvard University.

During the Baker Years (1945-1961) the student population grew from 1,500 to 8,000. Many servicemen had returned from the war and took advantage of the G.I. Bill. New classrooms and dormitories were needed. Baker saw to all these needs and managed to add many new buildings to the campus.

When the new president arrived on campus the historic Cutler Hall was neglected and boarded up. Cutler Hall was soon renovated and is now the centerpiece of the College Green. Even after the expansion of the campus in Athens, there was still a need to take care of this influx of new students. Baker faced a lot of opposition, but eventually got the go ahead for Ohio University branch campuses.

The school’s prestige and reputation increased during these years. On the international scene, Baker was instrumental in O.U.’s participation in the Nigerian Teacher Training Project and the flow of international students to the Athens campus.

Baker, during this time, had a number of state, national, and international positions including the United States delegate to the United Nations Economic and Social Council in Geneva, Switzerland. John C. Baker made extraordinary accomplishments for Ohio University and we feel the effects today.

In post-war America, a big topic of discussion was the possibility of nuclear war. In response to this threat, Baker and his wife, Elizabeth, started the Baker Peace Fund at Ohio University. This would fund the development of courses examining the threat of nuclear war and how to achieve world peace.

It seems to be an impossible task in contemporary times, but John Baker was well received by students, faculty, and the local community. As he is quoted in Time magazine in 1950, “I like to feel that everybody is my friend.” Time magazine went on to say, “everybody is!”

John Calhoun Baker (right) is pictured here with Ohio Governor Michael DiSalle.

If anyone has any memories or comments about John Baker, please drop me a note. I will add it to my files. John Halley jhalley@athensmessenger.com

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