It reads "C.F. Baker MAC Class of 1891."
Christopher Long, dean of MSU's College of Arts and Letters, walked through the room numerous times without noticing it.
His office, once occupied by former MSU President John A. Hannah, connects to the conference room. It wasn't until Jo-Ann Vanden Bergh, a retired assistant to the dean, visited campus in 2016 that he learned of Baker's marking.
“We looked in the corner, and she pointed out the little etching,” Long said. “You would never notice it unless someone pointed it out to you, and I thought, ‘wow this is really interesting’”.
Charles Fuller Baker was born in Lansing in 1872, according to an obituary published in the Journal of Economic Entomology.
After graduating from what was then officially known as State Agricultural College, Baker went on to obtain his masters from Stanford before leaving the United States for the Phillippines.
An avid botanist and entomologist, he would become the second dean of that country’s College of Agriculture, now known as the University of the Philippines Los Baños. He served in that role from 1917 until his death in 1927.
“Charles Fuller Baker, scientist, collector and pioneer, is dead – conquered on the very eve of the release which his indomitable will had long promise: a harassed body,” read the opening of a 1927 article in Science Magazine written by Colin Welles, recounting interactions with Baker, who, though he was a college dean, lived in a two-room bamboo structure on the outskirts of Los Baños.
"There, in his two rooms among the tops of palm trees, with the stench of his neighbors' pigs and carabaos floating up through the cracks in his floor, he made additions to his superb collections of insects and fungi, and 'thanked the Lord daily' for the ships which brought him letters from scores of unseen, unknown friends who had come to know and revere his solitary work as a scientist," Welles wrote.
Welles described Baker as a determined researcher who didn’t let the ravages of " a hundred tropic diseases" halt his work.
Despite a solitary lifestyle, Welles said, Baker was sympathetic and generous with those he interacted with. He recounted an instance in which Baker gave up a long-anticipated trip to a more remote part of the islands and used the money he'd saved for it to aid a boy who was dying of tuberculosis.
"For his own part, (Baker) stayed in his shack and classified his treasured insets," Welles wrote.
Much of Baker's collection ended up in the hands of the Philippines college, the University of Hawaii and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.
“In his death, science has lost a worker whose invaluable contributions were all too obscured by his indifferent to public recognition, and a host of scattered admirers must be reminded of his countless kindnesses, Welles wrote.
After learning more about Baker, Long said, he was compelled to share his story with students.
“You have all kinds of experiences while your here on campus, but really, we’re hoping students will find a path for their own fulfilling lives. I thought, here’s someone who came here and found a fulfilling life for himself," Long said.
Long's letter to 2016 incoming freshmen, titled "Finding Your Place, Leaving a Mark" highlighted Baker as an example of what students can accomplish.
"And as you chart a path of your own, pursue excellence in your chosen field of study, and seek to make the world into which you will graduate a better, more beautiful, and more just place, keep the spirit of predecessors like C.F. Baker close to you as a model of what a Spartan’s Will can do."
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