This is an adapted version of the commemoration written by Professor Siân Mooney, Dean of the IU O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs, who kindly allowed REEI to share it.
REEI is saddened to report the death of Professor Emeritus Randall Baker in March. An REEI faculty affiliate, Professor Baker taught in the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs. During his 22 years in Bloomington, he served as an international expert on historical perspectives in the analysis of contemporary environmental policy and problems, and was a sought-after speaker and accomplished author of over two dozen books ranging from academic works to novels – including two novels in which he used his dry wit to poke fun at Indiana University. Professor Baker served as the Director of International Programs from 1986 to 2002, developing institutional partnerships globally on behalf of the O’Neill School, and creating a strong academic linkage with the Peace Corps that served as a major source of outstanding students in the MPA program. Additionally, he took the lead in internationalizing the MPA curriculum by helping to develop the Comparative and International Affairs Concentration. His collection of flags – including some from countries that no longer exist – were kept ready and loaned regularly to IU’s Office of International Affairs. IU presented Professor Baker with the John W. Ryan Award for distinguished contributions to international programs in 2008.
Upon leaving the O’Neill School, Professor Baker worked diligently to help shape Western University in Baku, Azerbaijan, where he had previously received an honorary degree. Afterwards, he moved permanently to Bulgaria where he was a Distinguished Professor at New Bulgarian University (NBU) in Sofia – an institution from which he received a second honorary degree and where he had completed two Fulbright fellowships.
Professor Baker initially traveled to Sofia, Bulgaria as the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991 and subsequently developed deep ties with Bulgaria. Professor Henry R. Cooper, Emeritus Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures, who had been on the initial trip to Bulgaria with Professor Baker, commented that “[h]e managed to make superb contacts with all the appropriate movers and shakers, eventually arranging even a meeting with the first non-Communist prime minister of the country." During this trip, Prof. Baker also arranged for a Bulgarian educational reformer to visit IU, laid plans to found a private university (which now has 10,000 students), and when he returned to the United States, published a book about the trip. "Most importantly," Cooper said, "Randall stayed engaged: Bulgarians came to us, we went to Bulgaria. New initiatives were constantly being launched, IU faculty were being internationalized, and IU students were being exposed to students from a country many had never even heard of."
Baker was made an Honorary Member of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, an Honorary Professor of Western University in Azerbaijan, and received a Distinguished Service Award from NIDA in Thailand in 2002. He was an Honorary Graduate of Moscow State University, was named an Honorary Citizen of Breze, Bulgaria, and appointed an Honorary British Consul in Rwanda.
Prof. Baker received his bachelor's with honors in Natural Sciences and Economics from the University of Wales in 1965. He then earned his master's and Ph.D. from the University of London in 1968.
Whether he was adding more foreign currency to his O’Neill office wallpapered in money; motorcycling through Great Britain with the O’Neil School’s founding Dean, Chuck Bonser; or flying in a hot air balloon over Cappadocia, Turkey with Professor Emerita Maureen Pirog; Randall Baker led a full and very interesting life. Said Professor Pirog, “He was a vibrant, flamboyant and colorful personality in a sometimes drab sea of khaki. If people are remembered by those whose lives they have touched, he will be remembered for generations to come.”