Published July 16, 2015
John A. “Jack” Baker, a longtime UB faculty member in the Department of Physical Therapy and Exercise Science, and community volunteer, died May 27 in his second home in Sarasota, Florida. He was 79.
A native of Rochester, Baker received a BS from Brockport State College in 1958 and an MS from the University of Colorado in 1963. He taught at the University of Portland from 1963-65 and later earned a doctorate from Arizona State University in 1967.
He joined the faculty at Murray State University in Kentucky as an assistant professor in 1967, and while there also served as president of the Kentucky Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance in 1972.
Baker moved to Buffalo in 1974, joining the UB Department of Physical Education in 1974 as associate professor and chair. He served as chair of the department, which later became the Department of Physical Therapy and Exercise Science, until 1977. He also founded and directed the UB Faculty/Staff Health-Related Fitness Program.
Throughout his career, Baker coached football, basketball, swimming and baseball — he was head baseball coach at the University of Portland — as well as coaching and serving as a board member of the New York State West Youth Soccer Association.
He was an assistant Boy Scout leader in the Greater Niagara Frontier Council and held many leadership positions in the Willow Ridge Civic Association. He was an avid participant in highpointing — the sport of ascending to the point with the highest elevation within a given area — and had climbed 35 state highpoints and served on the board of the National Highpointers Club.
For 40 years, Baker was a member of the New York State Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (NYS AHPERD), serving as president (1979) and conference manager for the association’s Western Zone. At the state level, he was treasurer for 13 years, president from 2001-02, retiree section president from 2012-13, editor of the NYS AHPERD Journal, president of the Higher Education and Research Section, and a member of the Conference Site Selection Committee.
His service to NYS AHPERD was recognized with numerous awards, including the Distinguished Service Award, the Council for Physical Education Service Award, the Higher Education Section Service Award and the Higher Education and Research Section Service Award.
He also was a recipient of the Outstanding Service Award from the Brockport Alumni Association..
Following his retirement from UB in 1995, Baker was an active member of the UB Emeritus Center and Retired Employee Volunteers-University Program (REV-UP). He also volunteered for many years for The Food Shuttle of Western New York and the Charitable Giving Committee at St. Christopher's Church.
He and his wife, Leila “Lee” Baker, manager of the REV-UP program from 1990-2015, spent many weeks in their Sarasota home, cycling, playing tennis and kayaking. They spent their summers in their Amherst home, crewing with friends in the Spinnaker division of the Wilson Harbor Yacht Racing Association.
A memorial Mass will be held at 11:30 a.m. Aug. 8 at St. Christopher Church, 2660 Niagara Falls Blvd., Tonawanda. Memorials may be made to the NYS AHPERD Foundation, 77 N. Ann St., Little Falls, NY, 13365 or The College at Brockport Foundation, Physical Education Lecture Series, 350 New Campus Drive, Brockport, NY, 14420.