Humanitarian of the Year 2011: John D. Baker
For this year’s award winner, giving back runs in the family. John D. Baker’s father, David, chaired the Columbia United Committees Fund Drive (the predecessor to the United Way). Shortly after attending a ceremony honoring his father, John got involved with March of Dimes, which he continues his involvement with to this day. In fact, he was awarded Elaine Whitelaw award, the highest honor ever bestowed on a March of Dimes volunteer at the March of Dimes National Volunteer Leadership conference.
John was one of the first supporters of the new Chabad Labovitch movement, which now runs a successful Jewish Day School in Columbia. He also served on the Richland County Public Library Board of Trustees, and after his chairmanship it was named Library of the Year in 2001 by the American Library Association. In 2000, John received the Trustee of the Year award given by the SC Association of Public Library Administrators. Later, John and his family helped bring Maurice Sendak, best known for Where the Wild Things Are, to the library.
John has been very involved in the United Way of the Midlands initiatives by helping to create funding for the Early Childhood Initiative, Vital Connections. He also formed Step Into Reading to raise money for books and put them into the hands of needy children. For all of his work with this program, John accepted the Corporate Citizen of the Year award from the Carolina’s chapter of Volunteers of America in 2001.
His achievements don’t stop there. The State of Israel Bonds in Columbia honored John in 2002 with the State of Israel’s Ben Gurion award for his years of service. John was also awarded the State’s highest honor, The Order of the Palmetto, by Gov. James Hodges. In addition, John received the Philanthropist of the Year award given by the state chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
Without a doubt, John D. Baker is deserving of this year’s Humanitarian of the Year award. He is currently married to the former Marcie Stern, of Columbia, and they have one child, Gabrielle, who is a junior at George Washington University.
Invitations to the Humanitarian of the Year Awards dinner have been mailed to our Palmetto Society and other donors. For more information about this event, click here.