The announcement this past week of Edward "Ted" Baker's $25 million donation to the college pushed his family's roots a little deeper into the campus's red clay soil.
Baker graduated from Davidson in 1957, nearly a century after his great-great uncle first attended class there in 1862. In all, five generations of Baker's family have graduated from Davidson, including two of his own children, Tom (1981) and Margaret (1992).
Even before Davidson President Carol Quillen announced the donation at the school's graduation this past Sunday, Baker already was considered one of Davidson's most active and well known alumni. A member of the Board of Trustees from 1989 to 2005, he also served for 12 years on the Board of Visitors and on the Presidential Search Committee that brought President Bobby Vagt to Davidson in 1997.
Baker also chaired the Trustee Campaign Cabinet that led the Let Learning Be Cherished campaign to raise a record $272 million to strengthen the college, an experience he says inspired him to add his most recent gift.
"We are grateful beyond measure or words to Ted for his generosity and for the confidence that his investment demonstrates in us," Quillen told graduates Sunday. "Such ongoing, generous support from alumni, parents, faculty, staff and current students makes it possible for Davidson to sustain a dual commitment to excellence and access at this crucial time in our nation's history."
Baker came to Davidson after graduating from the Woodberry Forest School in Madison County, Va. A Spanish major at Davidson, he joined Sigma Alpha Epsilon, was active in the YMCA, ran track and cross country, and was a member of the national Spanish honorary fraternity, Sigma Delta Pi.
After serving as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps, Baker joined the family business and rose to the position of chairman of Florida Rock Industries in Jacksonville, Fla. The company was sold in 2007 to Vulcan Materials Co. He remains chairman emeritus of Patriot Transportation Holdings Inc. in Florida.
He was a charter member of the Ne Ultra Society, Davidson's leadership giving society, when it was established in 1972, and he helped lead the fundraising efforts for the Baker Sports Complex that bears his family's name. He meets regularly and provides support and mentorship to the select group of students who hold the prestigious scholarship named for his parents, Thompson S. and Sarah S. Baker.
The latest gift — the second largest in the college's history — will support The Davidson Trust, Davidson College's commitment to meeting 100 percent of admitted students' need with grants and student employment, but without loans.
"Davidson has always been important to our family," Baker says, "and I'm pleased to offer this additional scholarship support as an investment in the future."
While Davidson's student body was exclusively male when Baker attended, he says other characteristics remain from his days at the college — attributes that continue to set Davidson apart from other elite schools.
"The classes have been kept small," he notes, "and the deep respect for the honor code" remains.
Baker is also a leader in the Jacksonville community. He has served as a member of the board of the Jacksonville Port Authority, the Gator Bowl Association, St. Vincent's Medical Center, the Jacksonville Zoological Society, the former Barnett Bank, and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, among others. He also has served as past state director of the Orange Bowl Committee and has been honored as the Florida Trucking Association's Man of the Year.