Late Baker historian, archivist remembered
Harold Kolling, former Baker University historian and archivist, knew when the bagpipes were first included in the university’s graduation ceremony and the score of the first-ever football game between Baker and the University of Kansas.
It was difficult to find what Kolling didn’t know about Baker University, as he came to Baker in 1978 after being hired as the university historian. Kolling died Feb. 18 at the age of 90, and Friday Baker administrators, faculty and staff, as well as former students, attended a memorial service for Kolling in Osborne Chapel.
Several people in attendance, including University Minister Ira DeSpain, noted Kolling would not have liked being the center of attention, even at a memorial service, but it was something DeSpain said he deserved and something everyone else needed.
“We needed to do this because we needed to have a way of expressing how we feel,” DeSpain said. “So, it wasn’t out of disrespect for him as a man, but it was what we needed to do for ourselves.”
Baker alumni performed at the service, with Sarah Young singing and Phil Figgs accompanying her on the keyboard, while anyone in attendance was invited to stand up and share a memory or thought about Kolling.
“All of the things people had to say (Friday) were very true to his character, to his personality, to his history among the students and the faculty and the staff here at Baker,” Young said.
Along with working as a historian, Kolling took on other roles within the university. He was the adviser to the Baker University Student Senate and to the soccer team when it was still a club sport, as well being referred to as a mentor to many students. Kolling was also a philanthropist, donating money and equipment to the university throughout his time at Baker.
“Harold Kolling was nothing less than a Renaissance man, which I think was evidenced by the attendees at his memorial,” Figgs said in an e-mail about Kolling. “He counted people from every walk of life among his close friends.”
Current students knew Kolling as the elderly man eating alone in the cafeteria, which he ate at until a short time before his death. Most students were unaware, however, that 20 years earlier Kolling ate lunch in that same cafeteria, deep in discussion and surrounded by sometimes 20 or 30 students.
University President Pat Long only knew Kolling for about five years, but credits him with helping her find a quote she uses often about Baker being the “one great university in Kansas.” Long did not know Kolling in the capacity others did, but got to know him better through the memorial service.
“We know people from very small slices of their life,” Long said, “and that was one of those wonderful times where you got to see probably the whole person.”