Three Charleston residents have been chosen as honorary lifetime members of the Eastern Illinois University Foundation.
Ken Baker and Dr. and Mrs. Jerry Heath were inducted into this class when Foundation members met recently for their annual meeting.
Lifetime membership is bestowed upon individuals who have demonstrated exceptional and significant support for the university. Previous recipients include former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar and his wife, Brenda; Richard A. Lumpkin; and Burnham Neal.
Ken Baker has been employed by Eastern since 1994, when he was hired as a physical education instructor. He has served as the director of campus recreation since 2000. From 2007 to 2008, he served as the university’s interim athletic director.
Most recently, Baker joined a group of alumni and friends in working to establish the Baker/Warmoth Hall of Champions at Lantz Arena.
He is a ’72, ’73 graduate of EIU, having earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education, and began his teaching career as an instructor in physical education at the Charleston junior and senior high schools.
Baker also served the NFL as an on-the-field official for 11 years, retiring in 2001, and as an instant replay official from 2003 through the 2011 football season. His service as an official brought positive attention to EIU and helped support existing relationships with EIU alumni working and playing in the NFL.
In addition to his duties at and for Eastern, Baker has benefited the Charleston community in a variety of ways, including serving on the local school board (president from 1987 to 1988) and in various athletic organizations. He was appointed to the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.
As a first-grader, Margery Heath walked to school alongside EIU President Livingston C. Lord. Later, as a college student, she helped establish one of the first two sororities on campus, and served as the school’s Homecoming queen in the middle of World War II.
She met her husband, Jerry Heath, in a chemistry class. He went on to graduate from both the U.S. Naval Academy and medical school before returning to Eastern as the director of Health Service. He also volunteered his skills -- for 32 years -- as team physician for EIU’s athletics programs.
Additionally, Dr. Heath is a charter member of both the President’s Club and the Panther Club.
The Heaths further demonstrated their love for Eastern Illinois University by giving back financially. Through the years, their major philanthropic gifts have benefited many areas, including Athletics, the Human Services Center, the Department of Kinesiology and Sports Studies and the Eastern Symphony Orchestra.
Fittingly, Dr. and Mrs. Heath were named the EIU Foundation’s Outstanding Philanthropists for 2009 in recognition of their decades of generosity.