For Ken Baker, 25 years of giving to Eastern Illinois University boils down to two factors above all others — pride and appreciation.
"I am proud of my alma mater," says Baker, Eastern's director of campus recreation since 2000 after a six-year stint teaching in the Department of Kinesiology and Sports Studies. "It is my home, my community, and my career."
Baker's giving began with contributions to the athletics and kinesiology departments. As his financial condition evolved, so did his giving strategy; more and more areas within the university began reaping the rewards of Baker's generosity. He views this as a simple display of gratitude — one he hopes more faculty and staff will embody with their own contributions.
"We should appreciate EIU," adds Baker. "This university provides us with our livelihood. We have great jobs with great benefits in some very difficult financial times. At EIU, most people talk about valuing education, yet only 20 percent put their money behind what they say they value. I believe in investing in what I believe in."
That belief is the motivation not only for Baker's gifts, but also for his efforts in convincing more faculty and staff to follow suit — in other words, expecting greatness from his peers on campus.
"My own giving probably has very little impact," admits Baker. "But if everyone contributes, there would be a huge impact."
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Last year, Polenzani won the Metropolitan Opera's prestigious Beverly Sills Artist Award.
Matthew Polenzani '91