by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson
What do you give the woman who already has everything—including a commemorative bench, a Wheel and Chain cap and insider knowledge of Dickinson’s inner workings—for her retirement celebration?
A teenager when she came to Dickinson 61 years ago to join the college’s typing pool, Marie Baker served as secretary, and then executive secretary to the alumni office, dean of women, admissions, dean of students and dean of the college, before moving into her current position as office manager for Provost and Dean of the College Neil B. Weissman. Even after an 18-month absence because her husband was “in the service,” Baker returned to Dickinson simply because she enjoyed her work and has not left since.
Baker has seen the college evolve for six decades and adapted to changing policies, fashions and technology. Regarding the transition from manual typewriters to computers, she noted, “You have to learn how to un-jam equipment. You become a technician along with the technology.”
In 2005, Dickinson commemorated Baker’s then-five decades of service with a plaque and bench in her honor—it will soon be updated to reflect her additional 11 years at the college—and the Wheel and Chain women’s leadership society inducted her as an honorary member the following year. Her retirement was announced to the greater campus community during the winter break.
On Baker’s last day of employment, the Benjamin Rush statue, which she passed each day on her way to and from Old West, was outfitted with a headscarf, her trademark accessory. All campus community members were invited to share memories of her time on campus during an afternoon reception, where President Nancy A. Roseman as well as several faculty members and administrators, thanked Baker for her tireless commitment to the college.
George Allan, professor emeritus of philosophy, as well as former dean and acting president of the college who supervised Baker for nearly 20 years, was first in line. “You give her a task, and you know it will get done, and done well,” he said, noting that Baker’s winning combination of flexibility, adaptability, interpersonal facility and efficiency were the keys to her success.
Weissman agreed. “Marie said in a 2008 interview, ‘I’m not a legend,’ but hoped to be remembered ‘as someone who made a difference.’ She has achieved both,” he said, and then presented Baker with a “tenure box” of cards and letters from well-wishers and a watch engraved with the inscription “61—unbeatable.”
“Her service here is the stuff of legend, and she has certainly made a difference,” Weissman continued. “Dickinson is much the better for her presence.”
Asked to address the audience, Baker was characteristically to the point.
“I’ve said before that I don’t like pomp and circumstance, but I certainly appreciate all of you coming out today,” she told the crowd. “And I take a lot of pleasure in knowing that you’ve affected my life and I’ve affected yours.”
Published April 28, 2016