Philanthropist, Businessman and Arboretum Founder Jerry Baker Passes Away at 86

Jun 22, 2017

Jerry E. Baker
Credit Western Kentucky University

Bowling Green philanthropist, businessman and founder of the Baker Arboretum, Jerry E. Baker died June 22 at the age of 86.

His passing was confirmed by director of the Downing Museum at the Baker Arboretum, Jack LeSieur, who said Baker passed away peacefully at his home.

Baker was inducted into the Western Kentucky University Hall of Distinguished Alumni in 2011. He was a 1951 graduate of WKU.

He established professorships and scholarships in music and horticulture, as well as scholarships in art, dance and athletics.

In April 2006, Baker made a $15 million gift to WKU that included his home, art and arboretum, making it at that time the single largest gift by an individual to a public university in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

The philanthropist also supported the Phoenix Theatre, the Symphony at WKU and Orchestra Kentucky. He received the Milner Award in the Arts in 2009 for his contribution to the arts in Kentucky.

He was the owner of Southern Welding Supply, which was acquired by Airgas  in 1986. Baker served as president of AirGas  until 2010.