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Emeritus Professor of English Donald Baker Dies

Donald Whitelaw Baker, Wabash College professor emeritus of English and poet-in-residence, died Thursday, August 15 from complications of Parkinson’s Disease. He was 79.

Born January 30, 1923, in Boston, Baker was an English professor and poet-in-residence at Wabash College for 34 years. His poetry was widely published in literary magazines and anthologies, and he was the author of seven books. He was a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Writing Fellowship, and he received the Pushcart Prize, the Borestone Mountain Prize, and a Pulitzer Prize nomination.

Baker was named Milligan Professor of English at Wabash College and received the McLain-MacTurnan Award for distinguished lifetime teaching in 1967. He was honored by Wabash as an honorary alumnus in 1987.

Active in the National Council of Teachers of English, he served as a member of the Advisory Council, as well as judge, Indiana state chairman, and national director of the NCTE Achievement Awards. He was also the national director of the New Writers Award program of the Great Lakes Colleges Association. In 1968 he served as Montgomery County chairman for the presidential campaign of Eugene McCarthy.

After his retirement from Wabash, he moved to Brewster, on Cape Cod, where he taught courses in poetry, Shakespeare’s sonnets, and the work of Emily Dickinson in several continuing education programs, as well as teaching for several seasons in the Cape Cod Writers’ Conference. For 10 years he conducted a poetry workshop at the Brewster Ladies Library.

Baker was a navigator in the Army Air Corps’ 382nd Bomb Group, serving in B-29 bombers in the American, European, and Asian theatres during World War II. He graduated from Worcester’s (Mass.) Classical High School in 1941 and received A.B., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees from Brown University, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

He married Natalie Krentz in 1945. She survives. He is also survived by two daughters, Pamela Turnbull, Ipswich, Mass., and Alison Baker Rilling, Ruch, Ore.; a sister, Jean Andry, West Yarmouth, Mass.; and three grandchildren.

Memorials may be made to the Brewster Ladies’ Library Association, Brewster, Mass. 02631.

Baker was featured in the Winter 2000 issue of Wabash Magazine. To read more about his life and work, read To Live Humanely in a Difficult World.

 

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