Story by Melina Piperis
In September of 1977, Jimmy Carter was President, a gallon of gas cost 62 cents and Mr. Tom Baker taught his first class at Marian High School. Marian had no air conditioning, no PAC, one gym and soph lot was a field. Over the last 45 years, Baker has shaped generations of young women into independent, ambitious leaders. As his tenure now draws to a close, Baker’s legacy of curiosity, enthusiasm and love for teaching will forever impact our school community.
Mrs. Michelle Delisi first met Baker in 1978 when she began working at Marian. As an alumna and faculty member of the Marian community, Delisi is most frequently asked about Baker. She believes his contributions to the school “will forever be remembered,” such as his warm and caring personality and motivation to bring out the best in his students. No matter what class he is teaching or activity he is leading, Delisi noted that Baker undoubtedly sparks creativity and excitement. Some of her favorite memories with him include Baker’s various performances at school assemblies (playing characters such as Charlie Brown and the Lion from “The Wizard of Oz”), impressive decorating skills during the Halloween and Christmas seasons, and original songs and poetry shared at faculty and staff gatherings. Delisi reminisced on Baker’s laugh, generosity, and friendship, which are evident throughout his relationships with teachers and students alike.
When informed that Baker was retiring this year, Yiota Anastasiou ’01 thought, “that’s the end of the legacy instructors at Marian.” She explained how lucky she was to take Baker’s sociology class, and how the moment you stepped in his classroom, you knew you were in for a treat. “What other teacher allowed students to paint the ceiling tiles as murals,” she wondered, noting there was never a dull moment in Baker’s social studies classroom. Anastasiou said that what made Baker special was his instruction reaching beyond the classroom. He has earned the rightful title of “Field Day legend” for his countless first place demonstrations, as Anastasiou noted the confidence her class had as juniors when Baker was their mentor.
Since 1986, Baker has shared his love of travel with the community. Anastasiou explained how “his enthusiasm for travel rubbed off on his students.” She mentioned that many Marian girls would not have traveled if not for him, and that Baker’s packed itineraries of museums, theaters and sightseeing created many high school memories (documented by their own personal photographer Baker himself). Julie Kelter Koca ’87 went on Baker’s first school trip to Chicago, which included a jam packed Ram van, Paul Simon on the radio, and a directionally challenged Baker at the wheel. Koca can’t remember why they went on the trip, or what it is they learned, but rather the sound of Baker’s laugh that is forever ingrained in her memory.
“The lasting impact of Mr. Baker is simple,” said Anastasiou, “when I think of Marian, I think of [him].” The same is true for countless alumnae, such as Koca who described Baker as a “father to all of us,” and synonymous with her memories of Marian.
Over the last 45 years, Marian has invigorated Baker almost every single day. He values the importance of the Servite tradition, and will dearly miss his friends in the Servants of Mary convent. Baker’s amazed by how he can see a girl from 40 years ago and still remember their name, and is thankful to maintain close relationships with many of his students. When asked what it is he instills in Marian girls, Baker noted the importance of an opinion rooted in data, information and logic. He will continue to ask questions until receiving logical answers, in order to build the foundation for good stewards of this country. Baker will miss dealing with students on an intellectual level, and the friendships he’s made on Military Avenue.
It’s May of 2022, Joe Biden is president, a gallon of gas costs more than $4, and Baker is teaching his final class, Harry Potter Philosophy in Block B. Our most notorious teacher, demanding educator, and Field Day legend has changed countless lives along the way. His charisma, passion, and knowledge have touched the hearts and minds of students for nearly half a century. While he may no longer march (and yell) down our school halls, any time a student passes his beloved snow goddesses, they’ll know Baker’s magic is still alive at Marian. Godspeed Mr. Baker, you will be missed.