Linda Baker (68BA) once told a group of educators that while she gained so much from her time at the University of Iowa, she realized on her first day as a teacher that a lifetime of learning had only just begun.
“I had 42 students in my homeroom, and I truly had no clue what to do,” said Baker at the 2015 University of Iowa Teacher Education Convocation. “I learned that I needed to meet my students where they are—not where I think they are.”
That lesson proved valuable throughout Baker’s life. No matter what she did, she was a teacher at heart.
Baker—whose generosity made a difference not only for her students, but for her alma mater—died Dec. 27, 2023, at age 77.
“No one told a better story, loved people more, or was more devoted to her family and Iowa than our friend Linda.” —UI CENTER FOR ADVANCEMENT PRESIDENT AND CEO Lynette Marshall
Linda Ihrke Baker was born May 9, 1946, and grew up in Chicago. She enrolled at the University of Iowa and went on a blind date during her freshman year to an Iowa versus Northwestern men’s basketball game. It proved to be a fateful night.
“A friend of mine from high school—who was also at Iowa—wanted to go to the game that night,” said Baker. “Her boyfriend had a roommate who wanted to go to the game, and she asked if I would go with him. His name was Dale [Baker]. We never stopped dating after that.”
The couple went on to graduate from the UI in 1968—Dale with degrees in business administration and accounting, and Linda with a degree in English and a certification in secondary education. They married in July, just a few months after graduation.
Dale enjoyed a successful career in public accounting at Ernst & Young, where he rose to partner before taking the entrepreneurial plunge. In 1990, he founded Baker Healthcare Consulting, which specialized in Medicare payment strategies. He also consulted with members of Congress on a variety of health care issues and worked as a federal lobbyist.
Linda pursued community and children’s services opportunities, working as a preschool teacher for a United Way agency, as a middle school teacher, and as an investigative reporter for a local consumer magazine. She also spent 19 years working in an elementary school library.
But as her life unfolded, Linda began to concentrate on volunteer organizations and supporting causes that were important to her and Dale.
Since their years at the UI, the Bakers have remained linked to their alma mater through acts of volunteerism and altruism. It all started with a $12.50 gift to the Iowa Impact Fund, which provides unrestricted support to benefit students, faculty, and staff.
“We’ve always had a laugh over that,” said Linda. “It’s such an odd amount. It shows that you can start low and work your way up.”
Since then, the Bakers have established a six-decade legacy of philanthropy and have been among the most generous donors to the university. That includes support for the Tippie College of Business and the Colleges of Education, Public Health, and Liberal Arts & Sciences, as well as women’s basketball, Hancher, and UI Libraries.
“She was truly one of the greats,” says Amy Kristof-Brown, who holds the title of Henry B. Tippie Dean within the Henry B. Tippie College of Business. “She was such an amazing lady, whose passion and enthusiasm for life and learning will have a long legacy.”
Linda created the Dr. Ken Magid Child Advocacy Scholarship in 2005 after she traveled to Romania as part of the then-UI Alumni Association’s first service-oriented trip. While there, she volunteered at an orphanage, which inspired her to create a scholarship to enable UI students to engage in similar service-learning experiences. The scholarship memorializes Linda’s former teacher and mentor. Additionally, the Bakers support the Linda R. Baker Teacher Leader Center and professional development and cultural learning opportunities for students in the College of Education.
“Linda Baker was a true advocate for education with a kind and generous heart,” says College of Education Dean Dan Clay, who traveled to India with Linda and a group of UI students and faculty as part of the India Winterim program in 2017. “She believed in making sure every student had access to opportunities, regardless of their ability to pay.”
“She was truly one of the greats.” —HENRY B. TIPPIE DEAN Amy Kristof-Brown
Her support went well beyond giving to the university that she loved so much. Linda served on the UI Alumni Association Board from 2009-2015 and the College of Education Advisory Board. Linda was also honored with the 2023 UI International Impact Award. Together, the couple received the UI’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2016.
“No one told a better story, loved people more, or was more devoted to her family and Iowa than our friend Linda,” says Lynette Marshall, UI Center for Advancement president and CEO. “She will be deeply missed.”
Beyond Iowa, Linda was an ardent supporter of Camp Courageous, Golden History Museums, and the Iowa Health Foundation.
Linda is survived by her husband, Dale (68BBA); a son and daughter-in-law, Brian and Leslie Baker; and one granddaughter, Addison.