Undergraduate Alumni Stories

Jack Baker (B.A. '03)

jack baker your story

"The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say."
—J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

“There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something…You certainly usually find something,
if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.”
–J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

"Since I left my boyhood home in Shelby, MI to attend CU in the fall of 1999, my life has been shaped and molded by the people of CU and the land upon which it exists. Like many freshman, I had a great deal of growing up to do before I was able to succeed at CU--in fact, it was not until I took Matt Bonzo's introduction to Philosophy course that I began to be challenged to make changes in my personal and academic habits. His course changed the trajectory of my life, and I switched majors from Youth Ministry to Philosophy and Worldview Studies. I fell in love with my wife during that same fall semester of our sophomore year and also began to develop a substantial love for learning within the framework of the Liberal Arts.

Before attending college, my goal had been to enter full time ministry as a pastor, believing that vocation to be the most devout form of Christian service; yet, as I began to explore the all-encompassing nature of my faith, I found that I was being shepherded into what felt like a new faith altogether—one that embraced Christ’s redemptive power and held language and literature to be worthwhile endeavors. As I became enveloped in the works of authors such as J. R. R. Tolkien, N. T. Wright, Wendell Berry, and C. S. Lewis, I was moved by their creativity and honesty. Tolkien, whose Catholic faith informed so much of what he did, has been one of the greatest influences in my life; in fact, it is because of him that I earned my M.A. in Medieval Studies at the Medieval Institute at Western Michigan University. I now hold tightly to the freedom inherent in my Christian faith—a freedom that goes beyond denominational and religious boundaries and welcomes sincere inquiry into what it means to be a Christian teacher and scholar.

At CU, I began to gravitate toward professors that challenged my presuppositions, encouraged inquiry, and helped me wrestle with the intricacies of our faith. By the time I prepared to leave CU, I was married, had presented at a major academic conference at Baylor University (a trip for which, by the way, Professor Bonzo and other humanities professors helped me pay for with funds from their own travel funds!), was set on heading to graduate school to pursue the professorate, and had formed lasting bonds with my professors--many of whom I now consider to be friends.

Deciding on what to pursue in my graduate studies was difficult, but the direction and encouragement I received from Professors Bonzo, Stevens, Pasquale, and Carroll was inspirational. Without their sacrifices of time and energy (what I realize now, as a professor, to be nothing short of saintly), I would not have had the confidence to pursue my desire of becoming a professor (simply look at the number of humanities graduates at CU who have gone on to graduate studies to get a sense of how many scholars these folks have cultivated!!!). Though, my beloved wife Kelly (formerly Kay, Family Studies '03), who has always been my greatest champion, has been the purist source of encouragement and respect since we began our journey together.

Since my time at CU, Kelly and I have welcomed three beautiful children into the world: Owen Raymond (5yrs.), Silvia Kay (3yrs.), and Griffin Samuel (1yr.). We have moved seven times in 9 years of marriage, we have completed four academic degrees, penned one dissertation (written on three words for glory and fame in Old English Literature—sounds interesting, right?!), and have met many wonderful friends along the way. Needless to say, we are quite thankful to be at the end of our academic journey and at the start of my journey as a professor. In the fall of 2010, I began a tenure-track position as an Assistant Professor English at Spring Arbor University in Spring Arbor, MI where my specialty is history of the English Language and Early English Literature. We have only been here just under two years, but have already fallen in love with the university and the small community in which it is located.

It seems that my time as a student at CU has come full circle—now I am a Christian teacher and scholar, like my professors at CU. In fact, this semester I've had the privilege of teaching a major authors course on Wendell Berry and will be hosting Professors Bonzo and Stevens on campus as guest lecturers for the day. In my work, I strive to cultivate New Creation (N. T. Wright), taking seriously my role in God’s Story as a redemptive agent who ought to strive to produce thoughtfully crafted works of writing and art—always with a vision toward mystery and shalom."