Slippery Rock Administrator Advises, ‘Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late to Thank People Who Impact Your Life’
"I always thought that when I retire, I would get together with several special Springfield College guys and thank them for shaping the course of my life. I owe them everything,” says Eliott Baker. “Without them, I might not have attended Springfield College, or entered the college administration field. So much that has happened for me would never have been. Then,” he says choking with emotion, “I learned another lesson— don’t wait to thank those who have had a significant impact on your life. They might not be around when you get around to it.” He had discovered that Bob Palmer ’65, G’66, and Dick Hession ’63 had passed away.
“I vowed that I would never let that happen again,” he affirms, “and I called Fred Bartlett.”
Baker gathers his composure and recalls the time when he came to know Palmer and Bartlett ’70, G’78, in the admissions office, and also John Wilcox ’67, G’69, and Ellie Fuller ’78, G’79. He reflects on Tom Johnson ’59 in the development office, John Hedbavny ’68, G’70, in the dean of students office, and faculty members Ed Sims ’51 and Josephine Cecco. “They were my inspiration, my role models, my mentors. They believed in me and prepared me to succeed, sometimes in creative ways. I actually knew Dick Hession since childhood. He taught me and my friends at Camp Chickami how to swim. Years later, I followed in his footsteps as a camp counselor and aquatics director. When I applied to Springfield, he called Dean Lammers on my behalf, and knew that I had been accepted before I did.
“Fast forward to 1973-74. I was a senior [resident assistant] in Lakeside thinking about a career in college admissions. I had decided while student teaching that there’s nothing greater that I could give high school students than connecting them with college. It would change their lives forever. So, I asked Bob Palmer to establish campus tours, and volunteered.” Baker adds wryly, “I’ve got to tell you that I did not project the stereo- typical Springfield College image.” Palmer saw past the long hair and recognized that Baker loved Springfield College and would be a tremendous ambassador. “Great idea,” he said. So began a wonderful mentoring relationship. “I eventually worked as a graduate assistant in his office, where he trained, coached, and counseled me in all of the experiences necessary for an admissions administrator — visiting high schools, interviewing applicants, reviewing credentials, and more. As a result, I landed my first job as assistant director of admissions at Ohio Dominican College,” he says.
The Springfield College mentoring didn’t stop there. Baker greatly valued the counsel of Tom Johnson. “He always made time for me when I was a student, and again after he became vice president at Ohio Northern University and I became director of admissions at Slippery Rock University. I’ve had wonderful 33-year career at Slippery Rock. I hope that I’ve touched students’ lives as well as Springfield College people touched mine. They are the reasons that I give,” says the annual contributor to the College fund, and a member of the David Allen Reed and 1885 societies.
Baker is planning another donation. He has been scouring eBay for Springfield College memorabilia for 15 years, and has a formidable collection. The centerpiece is a Tarbell medallion, and especially interesting are students’ scrapbooks, which offer insight to campus life in times past. “These materials need to find their way back home, where they belong. At my 50th reunion, I want to return them to the campus where people have an emotional tie to them,” says the man whose life in college administration was sparked by Springfield College people.