Maryville College is celebrating the life of an esteemed leader and beloved family member. Alvin “Al” C. Baker (’72), who co-founded the Blount County Alumni Association (BCAA) Alumni Board in 1976, passed away on January 30, but his legacy will live long after him.
“Al was the heart and soul of the Maryville College Alumni Board, and when he passed away, it was like losing our backbone. Everything we did as a board either started from Al, progressed from Al’s ideas, or was supported by Al,” said Amy Baker, President of the BCAA Executive Board of Directors. The shared surname is a coincidence, but Amy says they were “like family.”
“We couldn’t get anything done unless he was 100% on board. That’s how well thought of he was.” The board recently added the “Founder’s Class” to their roster, so he could forever be one of its members. As the board tackles new problems, they first ask themselves what Al Baker would’ve done.
Al Baker never married or had children, but “He was everybody’s dad,” Amy Baker said.
“He invested in so many people—getting to know them, getting to know their families. He would do anything he could do for anyone.” Whether it was time, money or information, Al Baker was always eager to share.
“[The annual Harvest Craft Fair] was his baby. He ran it. He scheduled the vendors and collected the payment for years and years and years,” Amy Baker said. It has been BCAA’s main scholarship fundraiser for over four decades.
A ceremony for the newly dedicated Alvin C. Baker Harvest Craft Fair will be held at 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21, at the Alumni Gym. The craft fair itself will take place on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Proceeds from the event will go toward student scholarships.
As many others do, Amy Baker has endless fond memories of Al Baker to share. “He was such a cherished human, and I’m so glad I got to know him one-on-one,” she said.
A History major at heart, Al Baker was “a walking historical novel” of everything that happened on MC campus from 1970 on. “It would’ve been lovely for Al to have been able to write something historical about Maryville College. He was a fantastic writer.”
Al Baker especially loved the holiday season. “Al was,” Amy Baker paused and laughed, “a dictator when we were decorating for our open house every year.” He had enough Christmas decorations to fill an entire room in his home, so the alumni trusted him as the resident expert. “He had a vision, and we were going to stick to that vision,” she said.
Above all, Al Baker empowered Maryville College’s next generation of leaders. “I don’t know if it’s his empathy, or sensitivity, or caring, or what. He made me feel like I could lead anything,” Amy Baker said. This has fueled her mission as President of the BCAA Executive Board of Directors to help others experience a Maryville College education.
“His love and affinity for the college will live far past all of us. That’s incredible mentorship—to get something to move on past you.”