Archive for Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Baker eyes future as 150th year nears

August 20, 2003

What's good for Baker University is usually good for Baldwin City as well.

Consider these facts:

¢ Each year the Maple Leaf Festival draws 25,000 to 35,000 visitors to the community, yet few residents know the festival was started 45 years ago by two Baker professors.

¢ Baldwin City and the Baker campus were wired for electricity by a Baker professor in the early 1900s. He also designed the town's electrical plant.

¢ The university is the largest employer in town with a local payroll of more than $10 million.

"The university's impact is visible everywhere," said Baker University President Daniel Lambert. "The environment in which our main campus exists is important to the community. People choose Baldwin City in part because Baker is here."

The university has funded more than $25 million in improvements since Lambert became president 17 years ago. These include adding the Clarice L. Osborne Memorial Chapel, building new student apartments, landscaping campus and renovating Collins Library, Parmenter Hall, Harter Union, Liston Stadium and many other facilities on campus.

As the university looks ahead to its 150th anniversary -- just five years away -- more growth and campus improvements are planned, which again will benefit the community.

"The university must help set the standard for our community, so we'll continue to look at ways to enhance the physical structure," Lambert said. "We want the university campus to be a place our entire community takes pride in and feels comfortable on."

That means continued upgrades to Liston Stadium, which Baldwin High School uses during football and track seasons.

"It's good business and it's called being a good neighbor," Lambert said. "We must plan our facilities out there to accommodate the public school children, too."

Bill McCollum, vice president of University Relations, said work on Liston Stadium would include artificial surface turf and a new eight-lane track. The field will be reconfigured and marked to accommodate soccer as well as football. The baseball and softball fields will be flipped, with the new baseball field on the west side of Second Street and the softball field on the east side of Second. The $6 million project will be completed incrementally.

"Right now our facilities are significantly behind those teams we compete against," McCollum said. "That's hurting our ability to recruit and retain quality athletes. If you're gong to have sports teams, those teams need to be competitive."

Lambert is most excited about upcoming plans for a new state-of-the-art science facility. The project also calls for renovating Mulvane Science Hall for other space needs.

"These will be by a factor of four the most ambitious building projects we've taken on," he said. "We're looking at how science will be taught for the next 40 years."

McCollum said the building is vital to Baker's future as students demand updated facilities, especially in the sciences. Work on the building should be completed or nearing completion by 2008. Renovation work at Mulvane will follow. The university hopes to begin the project within three years.

"Students come to Baker and they walk into Mulvane Science Hall, which hasn't changed significantly since the 1970s," McCollum said. "We lose good quality students every year because of our science facilities, and that's unfortunate."

The new science building, renovation of Mulvane Hall and improvements in athletic facilities are part of the university's Baker@150 campaign, celebrating Baker's sesquicentennial.

"This campaign is important because we have the ability to position the university for the next 20 to 25 years," McCollum said.

Lambert said Baker would continue to raise the bar related to high standards in education in order to provide the best experience for faculty and students.

"The direction of the university has been well set, which includes focusing on quality in all of our programs," he said. "I see Baker on a continuing ramp up that will impact everything we do."

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