Tom Baker graduated with a near-perfect academic record & a new SHS pole vault record. He then attended Case Institute of Technology where he won two intramural conference wrestling titles and was named to the all-conference soccer team. He completed his education at Instituto Tecnologico y de Estudios Superiores, Monterrey, Mexico and Imperial College, London, England. He holds a Ph.D. in systems engineering.
Tom’s first job was in the Operations Research Group of Creole, an Exxon affiliate in Caracas, Venezuela. At the same time, he held a half-time appointment at the Universidad Central de Venezuela where he established a Systems Engineering Department that continues today.
After three years in Venezuela he moved to Manchester, England, where he taught and did research at the University of Manchester, Institute of Science and Technology. A year later, he bought a wooden sloop in Scotland and sailed back to the United States by way of Africa and South America.
He then returned to work for Exxon, this time at its center for mathematics and computing in New Jersey. During the next nine years he worked in Operations Research and became Coordinator for Operations Research for Exxon worldwide.
In 1982 Tom left Exxon to form his own company, Chesapeake Decision Sciences, a software and consulting company focused on the supply chain area. He functioned as president and head of research. Most of Chesapeake’s clients were large, progressive companies – e.g., DuPont, Shell, BASF, Exxon – with whom Chesapeake forged a unique business model: The client companies worked in partnership with Chesapeake to develop the specs for new software products. They also underwrote the cost of new product development. In exchange, participating client companies received a corporate license to the new product. But Chesapeake retained ownership of the new product and could license it to other clients. This business model enabled Chesapeake to avoid venture capitalists and remain a private company 100% owned by Tom and his employees.
When Chesapeake was sold in 1998 to a larger public company, eleven employees became millionaires. Some of the sale proceeds were allocated to the Baker Family Foundation that was established as a charitable foundation to help inner city youths achieve a college education. The foundation provides mentoring and financial support to candidates from the inner cities of Newark and Elizabeth, New Jersey and Cleveland. The foundation has helped over 200 students with more than 150 graduating from some of the country’s best colleges.
During his time in New Jersey, Tom often sailed a 48-foot cutter up and down the east coast. In retirement, he bought a 47-foot catamaran that he sailed in the Caribbean for five years before crossing the Atlantic to sail in the Mediterranean for another three years. Altogether, Tom has logged over 56,000 miles in his own boats.
Since retirement, Tom has written two novels, A Sea Story and She Blew into the Room.
He has continued his life-long interest in sculpting (website http://www.bakersculpture.com) and has presented a one-man show in a local gallery on Vashon Island in Puget Sound where he lives with his wife, Stephanie, and their 5-year-old daughter, Josephine.
Nominator: Bill Wilkins ’60.