RS Baker
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In memory of R. S. Baker

September 30,1926 - June 26,2004

 

 

   R.S. Baker, Associate Professor Emeritus of Humanities, died suddenly at his home in Salem on June 26. He was 77.

  Born in Weed, CA, Baker and his family moved to Salem in 1928 and to Vancouver, WA in 1937. He graduated from Vancouver High School in 1944.

  As an adolescent, Baker began to delve into activities and develop traits he would carry with him throughout his life: he read widely; made deep and lasting friendships; eagerly learned all he could about many subjects; developed his rich, witty, wide-ranging mind; and he fell in love with jazz.

   He served in the Merchant Marine and the U.S. Army Signal Corps during and after World War II.

   Baker earned a B.A. in Literature from Pacific University in 1953 and an A.M. in English from the University of Chicago in 1956. While in Chicago, he worked as an article editor and medical writer for the American Osteopathic Association.

In 1957, Baker accepted a position as half-time English professor/half-time public relations director at Western Oregon University. After his first year, he was offered the choice of doing either job full-time. He chose to teach, and did so with passion and dedication for the next 31 years.

Baker served on many faculty committees. According to his wife, Janet, he was perhaps proudest of having a major hand in crafting the Liberal Arts Core Curriculum in the 1970s, and of helping to establish a faculty union at WOU.

     From 1964 to 1966, he taught at the School for Translators at the University of Trieste in Italy on a Fulbright Scholarship.

Over the years, Baker published articles in "The Nation;' "Commentary;' "Jazz scene" and other periodicals. He co-authored, with PL. Van Osdol, a '71 graduate of WOU, a writing textbook, "The Wor(l)d on Wheels."

For five years in the 1980s Baker coordinated the highly popular Monday night jazz jam session at Boon's Treasury in Salem, each week bringing in the drums he had bought and taught himself to play in midlife. He transferred this new talent to the classroom when he used his conga drum in a writing class to help students understand the rhythms of words.

Upon retiring in 1989, Baker became active in Salem's civic and political life, but he never lost touch with campus. Just two weeks before his death, he donned cap and gown again and participated in the 2004 graduation ceremony.

Baker is survived by his wife, Janet Reinartz Baker, a '78 graduate of  WOU; sons, Geoffrey of Salem and Phil of Portland; daughter, Margaret Vallejos of Tigard; and two grandsons.

As a teacher, Baker's office door was always open to his students. "Indeed, his heart was always open to anyone;' Janet Baker said. "He taught and lived in the Socratic manner, asking probing questions that made students and friends see a piece of literature, the world, the self in a new light:'

      A memorial service honoring Professor Baker was held July 29 in Rice Auditorium.

A scholarship has been established to honor Baker. Contributions to the R.S. Baker Memorial Scholarship can be directed to the WOU Foundation, The Cottage, Western Oregon University.

OCT 04

 

     

Walter Morales PAGES- 2012

email: wtmorales@gmail.com