Gwendolyn Baker, a former School of Education faculty member and University of Michigan alumna, died March 7 in Sarasota, Florida. She was 87.
Baker attended public schools in Ann Arbor before enrolling at U-M, where she earned three degrees from the School of Education: a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education, a Master of Arts in educational administration and a doctorate in education.
Baker had an extraordinary career. She was a nationally known educator, international leader of multiculturalism in education and an activist on issues related to children and women. She taught in Ann Arbor Public Schools before beginning her career at U-M that spanned 1968-1981.
She joined the School of Education faculty as an instructor, then as a tenure-track faculty member. As an associate professor, Baker also was appointed director of Affirmative Action Programs at for the university.
In recognition of her accomplishments, U-M awarded Baker with an honorary law degree in 1997, and she was honored again in 2014 with the naming of the Gwendolyn Calvert Baker Collegiate Professorship of American Culture and Screen Arts held by Professor Lisa Nakamura.
Baker also lectured on a national level. She was chief of minorities and women programs for the National institute of Education in Washington, D.C.; vice president and dean at Bank Street Graduate College of Education in New York City; president of New York City Board of Education; national executive director of the YWCA of USA; and president and CEO for the U.S. Committee for UNICEF.
In addition to Baker’s U-M degrees, she received several honorary doctorates, and other distinguished awards too numerous to mention. She was a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority U-M Ann Arbor chapter, and founder of the Links Ann Arbor chapter. She was highly service-driven, having served on many corporate and non-profit boards. Additionally she traveled worldwide; enjoyed reading and collecting fine art; relished fine dining; and loved the opera, the theatre, golfing, tennis and swimming.
Baker was thought of by many who knew her well as, “A Spirited Black Woman in a White World,” as she portrays herself in her memoirs titled “A Hot Fudge Sundae in a White Paper Cup,” in which she shares her memories and experience of a lifetime spent serving and leading the causes for multicultural education.
Baker is remembered by two adult children, two grandchildren, four great grandchildren, and a number of other relatives and close family friends. A Celebration of Life/Memorial Service is scheduled for 10 a.m. July 11 at the First United Methodist Church, 120 South State Street, Ann Arbor.
In lieu of sending flowers, please make memorial contributions to the University of Michigan, School of Education to assist minority students.