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story.lead_photo.caption Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia. - Photo by J.D. Bailey

A desire to generously give back to his community in a significant way inspired Joey Baker (77) to endow the Emerson, Arkansas Scholarship for students from his hometown who choose to make Southern Arkansas University their college home.

“Emerson School and SAU helped shape who I am today,” Baker said. “I want to give back to them both in a meaningful way.”

Baker, who graduated from Emerson High School in 1973, still identifies with those students today. “I see them in the same way that I was in 1973. Money was such a big issue. I want to be able to help out.”

Scholarships will be awarded to Emerson graduates based on academic and financial need, as determined by SAU’s Scholarship Committee. There is no essay requirement.

Baker chose Southern State College for its proximity to his home as well as affordability. (The college changed its name to SAU in his senior year.) He majored in marketing and obtained his BBA in 1977 – a memorable year in his life.

That year, Baker served as president of the student body at SAU. It was also the year the bell tower was constructed on campus and that Dr. Harold Brinson was welcomed as president. A family tragedy, however, showed Baker firsthand the commitment to caring for students that SAU has always demonstrated.

“The students, faculty and administration were unbelievable in their support for me and my family,” Baker said. “It is examples like this that set SAU apart from other institutions.”

He can attest to the true “family feel” of SAU and observes that this “culture of caring” continues today. “They really do care,” Baker said of faculty and administration.

Richard Samuel, a marketing professor at SAU, mentored Baker. “He was instrumental in me getting my foot in the door for the education field,” Baker said. “One day, Mr. Samuel asked me if I would be interested in teaching marketing at El Dorado High School. At the time, I was a college graduate working in the oil field construction business. It was during the recession of the late 1970s, and I took whatever work I could find. I jumped at the chance to teach.”

However, Baker lacked the education credit hours to go with his business degree. “Mr. Samuel said, ‘no problem, I will work with our Education Department to get you the hours you need while you are teaching.’” For the next couple of years, Samuel helped Baker obtain the necessary credits to become a certified teacher. “I applaud SAU for thinking outside the educational box,” Baker said.

Teaching at El Dorado introduced Baker to the education field, but he soon moved on to politics. “I left teaching to work for Arkansas Secretary of State Paul Riviere when he ran for Congress in the 2nd Congressional District,” Baker said. “Another person that I happened to meet on that campaign was Dr. Trey Berry.”

After politics, Baker went to work for the Pharmacists Mutual Company providing insurance and financial services for Arkansas pharmacists for 28 years. He has been teaching as an adjunct professor at UAMS College of Pharmacy for 21 years. “I teach a personal finance course for third-year pharmacy students.”

He also teaches personal finance at Harding University’s College of Pharmacy. Utilizing his teaching and life experiences, Baker has written a book to be published later this year, Baker’s Dirty Dozen Principles for Financial Independence. He believes that giving back will make one healthy in heart, body and soul.

He and his wife, Brenda, who retired as a math teacher from Benton Public Schools, have two daughters, Lindsey and Brooke. Lindsey holds an undergraduate degree from Ouachita Baptist University and a MAT from SAU. She teaches middle school social studies at Pulaski Academy in Little Rock. Brooke also has an undergraduate degree from OBU and a master’s degree from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. She is a social studies teacher at Kent Place School in Madison, N.J., and has been accepted into the doctoral program at UCLA to study Near Eastern Languages and Cultures.

Baker received his MBA from the University of Central Arkansas.

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