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Jul 31

Warren Baker retires

Warren Baker warms up his son, 13-year-old B.J. Baker between innings at a San Luis Obispo Babe Ruth baseball game. Published June 26, 1989 Eric Burdick/Telegram-Tribune

It’s a fishbowl job. Everyone knows who you are, where you live and how much you make. Working at a public university, everyone has an educated opinion about your job performance. Even when you are not at work you are in the public eye.
This photo turned up while putting together a photo gallery as Cal Poly’s second longest serving president, Warren Baker, retired.
Former sports editor Eric Burdick was covering a Babe Ruth game when he noticed a familiar face warming up the pitcher.
Another time I ran into the Cal Poly leader watching one of his children play at a Cuesta College basketball camp.
I have to like something about a guy who finds time to support their kids.

I hear two general criticisms of Warren Baker’s tenure but I would be surprised if the next president fails to hear them too.

Critic: “That president makes too much money.”
Answer: Sister I hear you. Wish my pay raises came with four zeros after the crooked number.
Say, I hear the job is open why don’t you apply?
Didn’t apply? Then don’t complain.

Critic: “That president is never around.”
Answer: Brother, sounds like you have baby-sitting issues.
Reality check. The Cal Poly presidents who did not lobby in Sacramento and schmooze industry had short tenures. Often their administrations coincide with stories written about the state threatening to shut down the school. You can find their names on campus, on the buildings that didn’t get built.
Are state taxpayers going to fund an expensive school that they have never heard of in an out of the way location that only caters to locals?
Funding is not like when I went to school there. When Baker took over in 1979 public funding once covered 90 percent of Cal Poly’s costs to educate a student. It has since skidded to 50 percent in 2010 even with fund raising efforts that have been in high gear for decades.
Nick Wilson has more numbers in a recent story.

Can’t say I have agreed with every decision but my guess is Dr. Baker is OK with that. Thirty-one-years later he can step out of the fishbowl.

After a mediocre first three decades Cal Poly has been fortunate to have the last three presidents leave the school in better shape than they found it. Julian McPhee, 1933-1966,  Robert E. Kennedy 1967-1979 and Warren Baker 1979-2010 all made significant contributions. Here’s hoping the next president meets the standards of vision and accomplishment the last three have set.

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