Dr. Lee Baker came to WMU in 1954 and was chair of the Agriculture department. He and his family lived for about 20 years in the Gibbs House, which was the working farm where students put into practice the agricultural theory learned in the classroom. Dr. Baker and his wife, Myrtle, opened their home to students and the Kalamazoo community over the years. They touched many lives and were service role models in the community.
Although the Agriculture program no longer exists, many of the same sustainable agricultural practices that Dr. Baker promoted are still in existence today at the Gibbs House Permaculture Research and Demonstration Site, now managed by the Office for Sustainability. And although the property no longer exists as the Lee Baker Farm, Dr. Baker’s daughter and WMU alumna, Susan Baker Harrison (B.A. '86, French), wanted to honor the Baker’s legacy out at the property. On August 27, Amy Routhier from Development and Alumni Relations coordinated a reception that took place at the Gibbs House to memorialize the Bakers. A tree was dedicated in the permaculture food forest and a wall inside the Gibbs House was decorated with photos and memorabilia from the family.
In addition, Susan and her late mother, Myrtle, created a scholarship, The Dr. Lee O. Baker and Myrtle S. Baker-Kerr Endowed Scholarship for Sustainability, which provides scholarships for students participating in projects at the Gibbs House Permaculture Research and Demonstration Site. Eligible students will embody qualities demonstrated by Dr. Baker, including an interest in responsible stewardship of agricultural land; a commitment to fostering a community of learning between students, faculty and the Kalamazoo community; and a focus on the common good of the community and improving quality of life for all.
The Gibbs House is located near the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the BTR Park on Parkview Drive.
Visit the Office for Sustainability's website to view photos from the gathering and to learn more about the Gibbs House, including a video of Susan talking about growing up on the University Farm.
Pictured at the top of the page is Derek Kanwischer from the Office for Sustainability, Susan Baker Harrison, and Amy Routhier. In the photo to the right are Susan Baker Harrison and her daughter admiring the memorabilia wall inside the Gibbs House.