The Gift

“My life has been given to business, and I should like to found the first Graduate School to give a new start to better business standards. . . .But I want to do it alone.”
George F. Baker, 1924
George F. Baker, Jr. with his father at HBS Commencement, 1926.

Boston Post, June 2, 1924.

Bishop William Lawrence served Harvard in numerous capacities, including minister, overseer, member of the Harvard Corporation, and fundraiser. When Lawrence approached George F. Baker regarding the Business School campaign, Baker told him he would think it through after consulting with his son, George F. Baker Jr., a vice-chairman at First National Bank and a Harvard graduate. Lawrence later recounted that the senior Baker told him three months later, “I have lost interest in the idea of giving a million dollars. . . . And I don’t care to give half a million, either.” Lawrence recalled his “heart dropped with a thud” until Baker continued, “But if by giving five million dollars I could have the privilege of building the whole School, I should like to do it.”10

George F. Baker.

George F. Baker, Jr. with his father at HBS Commencement, 1926.

At a dinner given in his honor, the banker was visibly touched by the outpouring of appreciation for his gift. George F. Baker understood the impact of unsteady economic times on the nation, and his sympathies were aligned with the Business School’s higher mission, as set out by President Charles Eliot and HBS Deans Gay and Donham.11 “The methods of the Harvard Business School fell in with the results of [Baker’s] great experience and his firm conviction that business and its administration properly conducted were vitally necessary to the well being of the country,” the HBS yearbook noted. “It is therefore not surprising that he should have made this great gift in a manner that was consistent with the whole course of life.”12

William Lawrence, Memorandum about the Gift by Mr. George F. Baker of $5,000,000 for the Foundation of the Harvard Business School. 1924, pp. 20-21. HBS Archives (AC1924.48), Baker Library Historical Collections.
Rakesh Khurana, see note 2, p. 135.
“George Fisher Baker,” Harvard Business School, 1931-1932. Boston: Harvard University, Graduate School of Business Administration, p. 3.