Records created by the Office of the President during the 30-year term of President Dr. Warren J. Baker relating to university
operations, administration, promotion, international relations, and development, including campus life and commencement. Records
include correspondence, meeting minutes, photographs, speeches, publications, and audio/visual materials.
Dr. Warren J. Baker (b.1938) served as President of Cal Poly from August 1979 through July 2010. Baker was a civil engineer
and a recognized leader in higher education. The California State University Board of Trustees named him president on May
22,1979. The youngest campus president in California State University history, he came to Cal Poly after seven years as a
professor and with experience in multiple leadership positions including three years as VP for Academic Affairs at the University
of Detroit. He served as Cal Poly president for 31 years.
Baker was born in Fitchburg, Massachusetts on September 5, 1938. He attended the University of Notre Dame where he received
a BS in Civil Engineering in 1960 and an MS in Civil Engineering in 1962. He received his PhD in Civil Engineering at the
University of New Mexico in 1966 and later studied at Harvard Business School. He and his wife relocated to San Luis Obispo
from the University of Detroit in Michigan. Carly Baker supported the President’s Office in various campus activities, including
establishing the foundation for the Performing Arts Center and development work with the Centennial Campaign. She received
an MA in Education at Cal Poly in 1985 and worked on several boards and commissions relating to social issues, including the
Children’s Center task force, Children’s Protective Services task force, the board of the Women’s Shelter, and Juvenile Justice
and Delinquency Prevention commissions.
Baker was instrumental in developing strong financial, facility, and program growth; fostering relationships with private
and governmental funding sources; increasing the breadth of academic programs; and making a name for Cal Poly at the state
and national levels. Baker cultivated approximately $1 billion in new facilities and renovations over three decades including
a new Engineering Building (Bldg. 13) in 1985 and Agricultural Sciences Building (Bldg. 11) in 1988. Baker developed a relationship
with Al Smith, Cal Poly alum and founder of Orchard Supply Hardware, and shepherded the donation of the 3,200-acre Swanton
Pacific Ranch along with an endowment to support education at the ranch. Under his leadership, Cal Poly increased the breadth
of academic programs, adding 20 majors, 72 minors, and 15 master's degree programs.
Dr. Baker’s work impacted all aspects of campus services and student life. He supported athletic funding and led the process
to gain membership in the Big West Conference. Using Title IX as a guide, he instituted sports scholarships for women and
closed the athletics-only men’s residence halls. He faced challenges on campus as well. In 1990, due to attendee riots, Baker
suspended Poly Royal, an exposition held on campus since 1933. The event was suspended for several years and later redesigned
as Open House. After six successful Open House events, Baker reinstated Poly Royal for one year in 2001 as part of the university’s
He faced criticism of his administration, as have other presidents, but was largely successful. During his tenure as president,
U.S. News & World Report ranked Cal Poly as the best public university in the west for the first time in 1993 and for 17 consecutive
years afterwards. The Baker Forum, which focuses on the social and economic roles and responsibilities of polytechnic universities,
was established by the Cal Poly President’s Council of Advisors to recognize 20 years of service by President Baker and his
Off campus, Baker was involved in a number of professional associations and projects reflecting his interest and commitment
to promoting education in science and technology. Baker served as a member of the US National Science Board; appointed by
President Reagan, he served two terms from 1985 to 1994. He was a Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers, a Fellow
in the Engineering Society of Detroit, former board member of the California Council for Science and Technology, and former
member of the US Business-Higher Education Forum. He joined the Board of Directors of WestPort Fuel Systems in 2002 and also
served on the Board of the US-Mexico Foundation for Science. On Dec. 7, 2009 Baker announced his intention to retire and served
as President through July 2010.
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