Cornelia Baker ’85 is a retired occupational health nurse and donor to Saint Joseph’s College. Born in Cleveland Ohio, and raised in the midwest and the Philadelphia area, she attended Albert Einstein School of Nursing in Philadelphia, where she met and married her husband, Bernard Baker, who became a chemical engineer. Bernie, as he was called, moved up the ranks with major companies, taking the Bakers to The Netherlands, where he studied under a Fulbright grant, and across the United States – all while Cornelia raised four children and Bernie earned his doctorate from Illinois Institute of Technology.
Cornelia eventually returned to school to earn her bachelor’s degree at Saint Joseph’s through distance education. Bernie in the meantime launched his own company, Energy Research Corp, in Bethel, Conn. in 1969, and Cornelia worked as an occupational health nurse there from 1977 until her retirement in 1988. (Today, Energy Research is known as Fuel Cell Energy, located in Danbury, Conn., and is traded publicly on the NASDAQ.) Cornelia says her bachelor’s degree made her understand some of the employee concerns better. “I think I became better at counseling them and helping them to find outside help,” she says.
Cornelia lives in the dream house she and Bernie built in 2001. Before Bernie passed away in 2004, the couple traveled all over Europe and visited Japan six times together.. Cornelia continues to love travel (including going to see her grandchildren!), along with indoor and outdoor gardening, and reading both crime novels and historical fiction. She also likes doing genealogy research online and e-mailing friends from all over the world. She says she never gets bored and reads the New York Times every day. And she enjoys presenting a yearly scholarship as President of the Bernard S. Baker Fuel Cell Student Award.
Cornelia kindly agreed to answer a few questions about herself and why she donated to Saint Joseph’s College:
It seemed the right thing to do at that time. I had always wanted to complete my B.S., and had the time to do it.
Meeting so many diverse people who were all similar in their goals. The campus was very nice and the courses very interesting during the summer session.
When my husband’s company went public, he gave me stock and started to plan for our retirement by creating Charitable Remainder Annuity Trusts (CRAT). Bernie was a lover of philanthropy and planned giving, and he strongly supported his alma maters (University of Pennsylvania, and Illinois Institute of Technology). I decided to do the same. It is a way to say thanks, but also to have something for later, when you really need it.
I feel that it is important for a school to have an endowment to be able to plan for the future.
I would tell them that it should be a part of everyone’s estate planning. I have seen so many people die without any plans ... Americans seems to think that talking about death is taboo, but it is a part of life and why not make it easier for your loved ones?