A $7 million gift to the University of Chicago from Frank Baker, AB’94, and his wife, Laura Day, will endow undergraduate scholarships and internships for lower-income students of outstanding promise.
In recognition of the gift, the College’s newest dining commons will be named the Frank and Laura Baker Dining Commons. The dining facility will be part of the new Campus North Residential Commons, which is scheduled to open at the start of the 2016–17 academic year and will be home to 800 undergraduates.
Designed by renowned Chicago architect Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang Architects, the Campus North Residential Commons aims to build and support students’ intellectual lives. The Baker Dining Commons will offer a diverse dining program, including halal, kosher and vegan fare, and will feature floor-to-ceiling glass windows looking out onto a landscaped quadrangle, as well as two private dining rooms equipped with smart-room technology. In addition to open table seating, each of the eight new College Houses in the residential commons will have its own table where students can gather to dine. The House tables promote the exchange of perspectives and ideas, a key part of the University’s culture.
The University is committed to offering students of all backgrounds access to the distinctive educational experience in the College. The strong intellectual community formed through campus housing is a vital part of that experience,” said President Robert J. Zimmer. “Frank and Laura’s generosity will help broaden access through the Odyssey program, and we honor their dedication to supporting students in achieving academic, personal and professional success.”
“By seamlessly integrating residential and academic life, Campus North further strengthens the ability of the College Houses to provide opportunities to continue learning beyond the walls of the classroom,” said John W. Boyer, dean of the College. “The relationships that the Houses foster—both among students and between students and the University—will endure long after graduation.”
Each year throughout their undergraduate career, seven UChicago students will receive Frank Baker and Laura Day New Leader Odyssey Scholarships and New Leader Odyssey Internships, which support the recipient’s entire University grant, as well as an annual stipend for summer research, travel or internships. Established in 2009, New Leader Odyssey Scholarships are competitive scholarships awarded to College students with financial need and exceptional academic and professional promise.
“My parents always emphasized the importance of giving back to our community. As a student at the College, I set a goal for myself to help students like me, students of color, to have the transformational experience of a UChicago education,” said Baker. “Laura and I hope that through our gift we can inspire minority students to be leaders in their chosen fields. After meeting a few of our Odyssey scholars, we were overwhelmed with their intellectual curiosity and passion. We know they will go out into the world and do amazing things.”
Baker is a co-founder and managing partner at Siris Capital, a private equity firm based in New York. A member of the University’s College Visiting Committee since 2010, he is a board member of Sponsors for Educational Opportunity, a nonprofit organization that provides educational and career programs to young people from underserved and underrepresented communities. He graduated from the program in 1992.
As an undergraduate at UChicago, Baker was a two-time Academic All-American football player, and was involved in student government and the Organization of Black Students.
Day owns and runs Laura Day Living, an interior design firm. The couple and their children live in New York City.
The Odyssey Scholarship Program is UChicago’s distinct and successful model of support for undergraduate students with the greatest economic need, many of them the first in their families to attend college. Odyssey began in 2007 with an original $100 million gift from an anonymous donor known only as Homer. In addition to the gift, Homer challenged the University to raise an endowment of $150 million. Since then, more than 3,500 students have been named Odyssey Scholars, and the initiative has attracted more than 10,000 additional gifts, including a $50 million gift and new challenge from writer Harriet Heyman, AM’72, and her husband, investor Sir Michael Moritz.
The gift from Baker and Day contributes to the University of Chicago Campaign: Inquiry and Impact, the most ambitious and comprehensive campaign in the University’s history, which aims to raise $4.5 billion to support faculty and researchers, practitioners and patients, and students and programs across the University.