Jerry E. Baker Foundation donates $10 million for WKU scholarships

Nicole Ziege

WKU alumnus and philanthropist Jerry Baker pledged a $10 million endowment from his estate for student scholarships in fine arts and horticulture.

The endowment, called the Jerry E. Baker Student Scholarship Fund, will support WKU students who major or minor in music, dance, theatre, art or horticulture. Baker died in June 2017.

“Mr. Baker’s support would be one of our top five in our philanthropy history,” said John Paul Blair, interim vice president for philanthropy and alumni engagement.

WKU will receive $450,000 annually from the Baker Foundation for this endowment, Blair said.

Annual earnings from the endowment will be added to the Jerry E. Baker Student Scholarship Fund, which was created at Baker’s request before he died.

Although Blair did not know yet how many scholarships would be created by the endowment, he said that Baker wanted the scholarships to be of equal amounts across the five disciplines.

“The thing about endowments is that they last forever,” Blair said. “Students who share his passions will be able to share in his generosity.”

Baker’s contributions to the university stem back before this endowment. He gave an endowment of $1 million from his estate in December 2017, which will be added to his most recent $10 million to contribute $500,000 annually to student scholarships.

In 2006, Baker created two professorships—one in music and horticulture—with his donations. Blair said that contribution from Baker “set the stage” for further endowment campaigns by the university.

Baker also funded a strings scholarship and a scholarship for the Lady Toppers.

Baker, who was a supporter of the fine arts and humanities, founded the Downing Museum in Warren County, which opened in 2009 and now manages his art collection. He also founded the Baker Arboretum in 1992, where Blair said WKU students can intern and anyone can visit and enjoy.

“Baker was always thoughtful in his philanthropy,” Blair said. “His latest contribution is going to have an impact in perpetuity.”

Nicole Ziege can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected] Follow Nicole Ziege on Twitter at @NicoleZiege.