The Presidents: George T. Baker
George Titus Baker was one of the original nine members of the Iowa State Board of Education (later named the Board of Regents, State of Iowa) and served from the Board’s inception in 1909 until his death in 1940. Baker was the Board’s third president and served as such from 1926 to 1940. Baker is both the longest-serving member of the Board of Regents, and its longest-serving president.
Baker attended the University of Iowa for one year before transferring to Cornell (N.Y.) to finish his civil engineering degree in 1879. He married Clara Poole that same year and returned to Iowa to start a family.
In the 25 years after receiving his degree, Baker was chief engineer on a number of projects, including bridges that cross the Mississippi River at Clinton and Muscatine. He also built railways and water works around the state. During this time, Baker ran a pair of successful political campaigns, first for a seat in the Iowa General Assembly (1896-98) and second for mayor of Davenport (1898-1900). His time in the General Assembly is highlighted by his efforts in passing the millage tax – a tax on real estate – that helped fund a number of building projects at Iowa’s public universities.
UNI’s Baker Hall, completed in 1936 and first used as a men’s dormitory, was named for him. The building was dedicated May 27, 1936 with a number of Board of Education members, including Baker, present. "I don't know whether I should cry or laugh,” Baker said at the dedication, “but I must frankly say, you do me a great honor."
Following his death in 1940, the Iowa General Assembly adopted a resolution honoring his life, stating "Of his service and worth as a citizen it is difficult to speak adequately. He lived up to the highest ideals of citizenship. If anyone deserves to be called an ideal citizen, George T. Baker deserves to be thus designated."