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Friends bid farewell
Baker Center gathering remembers, honors campus center

Nov. 20, 2006
By Mary Reed

It's hard to imagine that one day people won't remember the 1950s-era Baker Center. Dean of Students Terry Hogan shared this notion with the dozens of people gathered in Baker's 1804 Lounge on Friday afternoon to celebrate and say goodbye to the building that has served as the center of campus life since 1954.

You're invited to lunch

A farewell lunch buffet is planned for 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 21, in the Baker Center Stateroom. Sponsored by Baker Center Catering, the event is open to the public. Cost for the lunch is $7 for one or $10 for a couple. For reservations, call 593-4035.

Ray Abraham is one of the few who remember what stood at the spot on Union Street before Baker Center was constructed: the Student Grill. Abraham served on the committee for Baker Center. "Not the new one, this one," he said, adding, "I love this building." Abraham held up a portrait of President Emeritus John Baker and told the many in attendance too young to remember, "He's the man who was my president." 

Phyllis Butner was in Athens as a faculty spouse when Baker Center opened 52 years ago. "We were thrilled because Athens was so small and there were so few nice restaurants to eat in," she said, recalling the elegant dining orchestrated by Maggi Davis, former head of resident services. Butner's friend, Osie T. Collins, also remembers the fine dining in Baker as well as President Baker's 10 o'clock coffee hour that gave faculty and their spouses a chance to get to know one another. Collins said the beautiful Baker Center provided a contrast to the Quonset huts around campus and town at the time. 

The ceremonial key presented to mark the dedication of Baker Center in 1954. Photos by Rick Fatica.Longtime Front Room open stage host Bruce Dalzell said he'll miss Baker's bar-turned-coffeehouse because "all my memories are there." Dalzell started shooting pool in Baker's rec room when he was 15 years old and was known to sleep on the couches in the 1804 Room as a high schooler. When a friend stole the wooden Ohio University seal that stands in the center of the Veterans Memorial Room (off of the 1804 Room) in 1973, tumultuous events on campus eclipsed her prank. Deflated, she returned the seal before anyone noticed it was missing. 

"This is where my life was, in a big way," former Dean of Students Joel Rudy said about Baker. "This was a wonderful inside space to interact with students." Rudy said the building "tied up all the loose ends" on campus, hosting all sorts of events, concerts and speeches. He recalled when first lady Hillary Clinton gave a speech outside of Baker and then asked to meet all of the people who worked there. The Secret Service set up a receiving line in the ballroom, and employees got to meet her one by one. 

Mickey Hart remembers his first visit to Baker Center. It was 1989, and he came from the Ohio University Lancaster campus for an Athens AIDS Task Force benefit in the Front Room. Now assistant director of campus life for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Programs, Hart has worked in Baker Center since 1996. 

Mickey Hart with former Dean of Students Joel Rudy. Photos by Rick FaticaWith all the excitement and buzz about the new Baker University Center opening Jan. 2, Hart had an epiphany in the elevator one day: "I thought it was important that we paused to say goodbye." Hart likened Baker to "a nice, worn leather shoe" and said he will miss it. 

And though he may be dean of students today, Terry Hogan secured his first position in Baker Center in 1979 ? as manager of the Frontier Room. Hogan said he feels some sadness about giving up something that has been so important to the university for such a long time. But, he quickly added, "Whatever sadness there is is overshadowed by the possibility of what the new center has to offer the university and the community."

Mary Reed is a writer with University Communications and Marketing.


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Published: Nov 20, 2006 8:39:11 AM
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