CLEVELAND, Miss.—A Delta State University general chemistry laboratory that is being used to help prepare the next generation of scientists, teachers and thinkers has now been renamed in honor of supporters Joe ’75, ‘77 and Amanda Baker.
Delta State faculty, staff and friends gathered on the second floor of the Caylor-White Science Building on Oct. 29 for the dedication ceremony prompted following the couple’s generous $250,000 gift in 2019 to support Delta State’s Division of Mathematics and Sciences.
During the event, Delta State President William N. LaForge said that Joe and his late wife, Amanda, are most-deserving of the honor.
“This is really a grand occasion for Delta State, and we really appreciate our faculty, staff, alumni and supporters for coming and being a part of this. We wish Amanda, “AJ,” was here cheering us on as well. We appreciate very much that she was a part of this, and we celebrate her today as well.”
According to LaForge, the Bakers’ gift has had a great impact on Delta State faculty and students.
“Joe Baker is somewhat of an enigma because when he was a student here, he was a relatively quiet guy. He really focused his time on the Sciences, and it literally and figuratively paid off for him,” said LaForge.
“He has thought enough of Delta State and the experiences that set the platform for him to share his treasure with us. This gift has been transformational—nothing short of that. We’re so grateful for you Joe, as well as AJ, for your thoughtfulness, your consideration and for remembering the lessons you learned at Delta State. We really appreciate your generosity.”
Dr. Ellen Green, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Delta State, echoed that appreciation.
“On behalf of the College of Arts and Sciences and the Division of Math and Science, we are so grateful. I can’t even begin to tell you the transformation that has happened in this building over the last few years. It is so amazing to get a donation of this size….We’re now able to do activities and lab exercises with our students that we weren’t able to do before, so it’s a really huge transformation, and we just want to say thank you,” she said.
Vice President of University Advancement and External Relations Rick Munroe agreed that the gift has provided a tremendous boost for the University.
“The morale of the faculty of this building has gone up 100 percent now that they have discretionary dollars to buy equipment and supplies beyond the normal needs of laboratory equipment, so it’s very fitting today that we place The Bakers’ name on one of our major labs,” he said.
Joe came to Delta State in 1971, earning a bachelor’s degree in Biology with a minor in Chemistry.
“My career took me in a little bit of a different direction, but I was really happy with the direction I took,” he said. “I felt like I had a great education here at Delta State.”
In fact, he returned to Delta State in 1977, earning a master’s degree in Interdisciplinary Science.
“I spent a lot of time in this building,” he shared. “It was an interesting time. I felt like the instructors I had were excellent, but you could tell as a student at that time that they were struggling with resources. It’s an age-old problem of needing resources to accomplish everything you want to do, and when you’re working in the Sciences, it can be quite expensive.”
When the opportunity came to give back to Delta State, Baker said it was a no-brainer.
“I wanted to do it in a two-prong approach—one was to provide the money that would allow an upgrade for some of the equipment here. I was really happy that AJ and I were able to support that upgrade.”
Baker said the next phase is to give money in an endowment for scholarships to help students.
“AJ and I talked about it a lot; it meant a lot to her, and she would be very sorry not to be here. We both talked about how important education was…She understood what Delta State is about and having the opportunity to give back meant a lot to the both of us. I’m very pleased and honored for the occasion today.”
More photos from the event: