One couple’s split loyalties and international ambitions have led to the creation of a new scholarship fund that will support students at the Law School.
Gary E. Baker, LLM ’76, and Susan Key Baker grew up in the same neighborhood in central Texas, but they did not start dating until they were both students at Baylor University, a private research university located in Waco, Texas. Susan was enrolled in the nursing program, and Gary was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in history and political science. Gary went on to receive a law degree at Baylor while Susan worked at a local hospital.
Even though Baylor University is located deep in the heart of Texas, its graduates are known for traveling abroad, as indicated by a line in the school song related to its official colors: “We’ll fling our green and gold afar.” Living up to this reputation, the Bakers married and moved to Crete after Gary entered active duty in the United States Air Force as a judge advocate during the Vietnam War.
It was during his time overseas that Gary first cultivated an interest in international law and gained an opportunity to pursue advanced legal education. “The judge advocate general toured various bases and because he was impressed with my work, I was encouraged to pursue an LLM. I was told to get into the best law school I could, and Michigan was right up there at the top. So I applied, got in, and the rest is history,” he says.
What followed next was a memorable year in Ann Arbor. Gary took classes in international law, comparative legal systems, and global economics from renowned international legal scholars of the time, including Professors William Bishop, Eric Stein, and Whitmore Gray.
While Gary was digging into the finer points of international law, Susan accepted a position at the University of Michigan Medical Center (now Michigan Medicine), which she credits with advancing her education and her career. “I was in a medical surgical unit where we could monitor patients with heart problems and had a wonderful experience at that teaching hospital,” she says. “Between Baylor and Michigan, I never had a problem working anywhere after Gary and I left Ann Arbor.”
With gratitude for the influence Michigan Law had on their lives, the pair established the Gary E. and Susan Key Baker Endowed Scholarship in Law. The fund will support Michigan Law students who previously studied at Baylor, as well as LLM students with a focus on international, transnational, or comparative law.
“Susan and I would like to help students be able to have the Michigan opportunity. We fondly remember our time there, including the professors who opened up their home to us and were very supportive,” Gary says. “Looking back, it really broadened my experience to have the Michigan connection. The other thing it did was reaffirm my Baylor education because I attended Michigan with some of the best students in the world and got good grades. And so it said to me that, if you have any doubts about your ability, coming out of Michigan, you can compete with anybody.”
After obtaining his LLM and subsequently leaving the Air Force, Gary spent the next 37 years at ExxonMobil, where he had a transactional, litigation, and regulatory practice that spanned from West Texas to Alaska. His latter two decades were spent as counsel to the ExxonMobil Exploration and Development Companies, acquiring petroleum rights in South America, Asia, and Africa. Susan worked for many years as a nurse, as well as a nurse recruiter, and eventually returned to school to obtain a master’s degree in history.
These days, unless Michigan plays Baylor, the couple can be found rooting for both the Baylor Bears and the Wolverines. They look forward to the next time they can be in Ann Arbor and share a meal of sauerbraten at Metzger’s German Restaurant.—CLP