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Burke and Elizabeth Baker Memorial Scholarship

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Elizabeth & Burke Baker, Jr, 1985.
Elizabeth & Burke Baker, Jr, 1985.

The Burke and Elizabeth Baker Memorial Scholarship honors Burke Baker, Jr., and Elizabeth High Baker, Robert H. Baker’s parents. Burke and Elizabeth encouraged and supported the academic achievements of their children and their children’s families by recognizing the value of outstanding colleges and universities. The Bakers supported these institutions throughout their lives and generously supported of the University of Texas at Austin College of Liberal Arts.

Burke Baker, Jr. was a business major at UT and was on a Southwest Conference Championship-winning tennis team. He earned his economics BA in 1935. He maintained a lifelong love of UT and tennis. Elizabeth Baker was a native of St. Louis and received her BA in 1940 from Washington University, majoring in child psychology.

Robert & Sharon Baker, 2003.
Robert & Sharon Baker, 2003.

Burke Baker, Jr. spent most of his business career in his hometown of Houston. He earned an MBA from Harvard University in 1937 and then served in the Army during World War II. Stationed at the Pentagon during the war, he married Elizabeth High in Washington in 1942. They returned to Houston after the war, and Burke joined Anderson Clayton & Co., a major cotton and cottonseed merchant and food products manufacturer in the United States and Latin America. Burke retired in 1979 as the company’s executive vice president and director.

Burke was active in church and civic affairs in Houston. He was a director of the Houston Committee on Foreign Relations and Rotary Club of Houston, and president of the Sam Houston Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America. He passed away in Houston in 1999.

Elizabeth Baker was a homemaker. She was a member of the Houston Junior League and Southern Garden Club of Houston, and active in her Episcopal church. After Burke retired, they built a second home in their beloved Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where they loved to fish, hike, and play golf. In 2002 she endowed the Burke and Elizabeth High Baker Chair in Child Developmental Psychology at Washington University. She died in Houston in 2009.

Throughout the formative years of their children, Burke and Elizabeth Baker helped lay the foundation for academic achievement. Each of their three children chose different academic directions, but all achieved success. One earned a PhD in chemical engineering, another, a PhD in English, and the other an MBA. When their daughter-in law, Sharon, sought to return to school for a second degree in interior design at UT, they encouraged her and welcomed her success. Burke and Elizabeth Baker made a lifelong commitment to education and to the University. The scholarship fund in their honor is a lasting tribute to this commitment.

The Baker family has a long UT history. Robert High Baker received his PhD in English in 1979. Both of Robert High Baker’s paternal grandparents attended, with his grandfather, Burke Baker, Sr., receiving his BA in 1909. His father, Burke Baker, Jr., received his BA in 1935.

The citizens of Austin honored Robert Baker’s great-grandfather, Robert Holmes Baker, in 1921 for his leadership in retaining a permanent Austin home for the University. As president of the Austin Chamber of Commerce, R.H. Baker was instrumental in making possible the purchase of an additional 133 acres of land as an addition to the campus.

Sharon Thornton Baker received her Magna Cum Laude BS in home economics from UT in 1979. Her father, Robert Richard Thornton, received his LLB from the University in 1948. Robert and Sharon’s daughter, Charlotte T. Baker, is a Summa Cum Laude graduate of the University, receiving her BS in advertising and public relations in 2007.

Robert High Baker taught at UT as an English instructor after receiving his terminal degree, but changed careers in 1981. He attended a UT program called “Careers in Business for PhD in Humanities” conducted by the Office of Graduate Studies and the School of Business in the summer of 1980. He was hired as a commercial banker in Houston in 1981 and retired from the profession in 2007. Sharon Baker received her first undergraduate degree, a BA, with a major in English, in 1973 from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She then completed a second undergraduate degree in 1979 from UT Austin — a BS with high honors in home economics with a major in interior design. She worked more than 20 years in the commercial office furniture industry in Houston.

Both Robert and Sharon Baker have had a lifelong love of literature. They believe that reading illuminates the human condition. They share a deep and abiding interest in other aspects of the humanities, especially history, philosophy, and theology.

The Bakers feel that higher education is the key to America’s future and are especially sensitive of the need for all our citizens to achieve their full educational potential, including those whose financial situation hampers them. They feel they were both lucky enough to have parents who helped them achieve their educational goals. The Bakers believe that it is imperative for the future of Texas that its citizens provide for the education of its best and brightest youth, regardless of their financial condition. They hope that the Burke and Elizabeth Baker Memorial Scholarship will help serve this purpose.

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