Humanities & Cultural
Dr. E. DeWitt Baker
In his 16 years as president of Huntington College, Earl DeWitt Baker oversaw not only the physical growth of the campus, but a spiritual one as well, borne of Baker’s heart for Christian mission work he brought to his tenure leading the school.
Born in Hillsdale, Mich., in 1919, Baker attended Huntington College. There, he lettered in baseball and graduated in 1940 with a degree in chemistry. He met his wife, Evelyn Middaugh, while on a Huntington College choir tour. They married in 1942. Baker earned a master’s degree and his doctorate from the University of Michigan. He taught for a year before enlisting in the Navy. During World War II, he was a pilot in the Atlantic Theater and later a test pilot for Martin Mariner flying boats at Patuxent River, Md.
After the war, the Bakers answered the call to service with the Church of the United Brethren in Christ. They spent 16 years in the mission field in West Africa and began their family there, caring and sharing with the people of Mattru, where they helped build the first coeducational secondary school in Sierra Leone in 1955. They helped establish several more schools, bringing literacy and hope for a better life to thousands in the country.
Dr. Baker returned to Huntington College in 1965 when he was asked to lead the school as president. Under his tenure, the college experienced significant growth in enrollment. New facilities were added, including Hardy Hall, the Huntington Union Building and Merillat Physical Education Center. Lake Sno-Tip was created and the Thornhill Nature Preserve was acquired. New academic programs were launched, including majors in accounting, medical technology, recreation management, and a master of Christian ministries degree.
Baker was a passionate fisherman, often taking trips to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. He was also remembered as a fisher of men, using his missionary spirit to bring people to commit their lives to Christ. Baker was a prayerful man. It was lovingly joked that he had a direct connection to God, evidenced by the fact that in his 16 years as college president, not one of the school’s outdoor commencement ceremonies was ever rained out.
His contacts in Sierra Leone helped Baker gain a foothold in that country for a polio-eradication initiative that had been started in the late 1970s by Rotary International. Rotary’s worldwide Polio Plus inoculation effort has resulted in millions of children safe from suffering.
Baker stepped down as president of Huntington College in 1981, but he and his wife remained fixtures at university events, including concerts, athletic contests and other activities. He remained an ambassador for the school and was beloved by friends and alumni. In 1991, Dr. and Mrs. Baker received the Union Christian Heritage Award in recognition of their service to the community and to the Church of the United Brethren in Christ. Baker Hall, a residence hall on the campus, was named in his honor. Dr. Baker died May 21, 2000.