Structurally Sound
August 27, 2009 |  by Nora Koch

Matters of Intent
The Roman philosopher Seneca said that the true gift in giving is not found in a gift but in the giver’s intention. At Johns Hopkins, there are nearly as many reasons for giving as there are donors (83,396 of them last year, to be exact, including 20,040 alumni). This month, we delve into some of those donors’ intentions–a young alum saying “thanks” on behalf of her entire class; a couple with deep roots at the School of Medicine taking a stand to ensure that the school and hospital work in tandem to advance research, teaching, and patient care; and a retired businessman wanting to share with today’s students the same tools that brought him success.

Lenox and Fran Baker, whose philanthropy created Johns Hopkins' first endowed deanship, were honored at the dedication of the Johns Hopkins Founders Wall in May.

Lenox and Fran Baker, whose philanthropy created Johns Hopkins' first endowed deanship, were honored at the dedication of the Johns Hopkins Founders Wall in May.

In the early 1990s, while Johns Hopkins continued to thrive at the forefront of American medicine, leaders in East Baltimore were increasingly aware that the institution’s primary medical missions–research, teaching, and patient care–were at a crossroads. With different leadership, different priorities, and increasingly different cultures, the School of Medicine and the hospital were headed toward a rift. Medicine at Johns Hopkins needed a better organizational structure.

Frances and Lenox Baker, both A&S ’63, Med ’66, were acutely aware of this situation. They felt compelled to take a stand that at Johns Hopkins, the pursuit of research and academics–in collaboration with patient care–would remain a driving force of the institution.

In 1996, the couple, who met as Johns Hopkins undergraduates and married as medical students, made a gift of $10 million to endow the deanship at the School of Medicine.

The Frances Watt Baker, M.D., and Lenox D. Baker Jr., M.D., Dean of the Medical Faculty was the first endowed deanship in Johns Hopkins’ history, leading the way for other endowed deanships at the Krieger School and the G.W.C. Whiting School of Engineering. A deanship’s endowment provides a permanent income stream the dean uses to advance the work of the school, allowing flexibility to invest in programs that might be risky but hold great promise–for instance, teaching and clinical initiatives that support the work of younger, unproven but talented investigators.

Making the gift in part as a tribute to former deans Thomas B. Turner (who initially attracted Lenox Baker to Johns Hopkins and was dean from 1957 to
1968) and Michael M.E. Johns (who was dean from 1990 to 1996 and became a personal friend), the Bakers wanted to support the new structure and the idea that the School of Medicine’s dean would sit at the head of a single academic and clinical enterprise, Johns Hopkins Medicine.

For the couple’s part, says Lenox Baker, a cardiac surgeon who serves on the boards of Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins Medicine, they have felt great pride watching their alma mater thrive as the new structure succeeded. “If you look at Johns Hopkins over the past 13 years, we’ve created some of the research that is the most cited in the world, all the while successfully rebuilding the East Baltimore campus and implementing a new, innovative curriculum at the medical school. All of this is heading in the right direction,” says Baker.

“We made an investment– not a charitable gift. We bought stock in Johns Hopkins Medicine and have been very happy in our rate of return.”