Dexter F. Baker ’50, ’57G, a philanthropist and university trustee who championed innovation and the arts and earned early renown for guiding the firm Air Products to prominence, died on November 1, at the age of 85.
Baker earned a B.S. in mechanical engineering, and an MBA from Lehigh weaved around separate tours of duty with the U.S. Navy He went on to join Air Products, a Trexlertown-based company that is now one of the world's largest manufacturers of industrial gases and chemicals. Beginning his career there in the 1950s as a sales engineer, he rose through the ranks of the emerging global firm, successfully guiding its expansion into Europe. He was elected to the firm's board of directors in his late 30's. He eventually became chairman and CEO, and retired from Air Products in 1992.
Baker quickly became known throughout the Lehigh Valley for his philanthropic endeavors, many of them in support of the University. With his wife Dorothy, he co-chaired the $33 million capital campaign for the Zoellner Arts Center in the 1990s and made a generous contribution to name Baker Hall. Previously the Bakers had created the Dexter F. and Dorothy H. Baker Gifted Arts Scholarship Program for students in the performing arts, and in 2010, Baker founded the Dexter F. Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Innovation. Lehigh awarded Baker an Honorary Doctor of Engineering degree in 1981, and in October of 2012 the College of Business and Economics honored Baker with a \lifetime achievement award at its annual MBA Day celebration. At the MBA Day Celebration, Baker was quoted in saying "If you dream big dreams, they're more likely to happen than if you don’t dream at all. The only future we have is the one we create for ourselves." Mr. Baker is survived by Dorothy Baker, his wife of 61 years, and by four daughters and six grandchildren.