Aug. 12, 2020
Loren Baker, the chair of Biola University’s art department, passed away unexpectedly at home over the weekend, university leaders announced Tuesday. The beloved professor, who devoted more than 35 years of his life to teaching art to Christian college students across the nation, was 64.
“This is a difficult time for our community as we reflect on the life and influence of Professor Baker,” Biola President Barry H. Corey said Tuesday. “Loren was a dear friend and a person of insight and faith. He will be sorely missed. Please pray for his family, his faculty peers, his students and his countless friends and associates within Biola and beyond that the Lord would be their comfort and their hope.”
Baker, who taught at Biola since 2004, was an accomplished sculptor and assemblage artist who devoted much of his life to Christian higher education. In addition to his decade of teaching and departmental leadership at Biola, Baker spent 24 years as a professor and chair at Roberts Wesleyan College in New York. He also taught briefly at Asbury University.
Baker was deeply admired at Biola, where he had strong ties going back decades. In 1972, he had the distinction of being one of three students in the Biola art department’s first graduating class. He later taught at Biola from 1977 to 1979, while completing a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, which he earned in 1978.
During his tenure at Biola from 2004 to 2013, he taught numerous classes and was instrumental in instituting the annual Art Interterm Study Tour, an 18-day tour of the art and architecture in Italy, France and Spain.
Baker was a visionary who brought strong leadership to Biola’s art department, said David Nystrom, provost and senior vice president.
“He had a vision for the role of the arts within the human experience and at Biola, a vision that was capacious and deeply Christian,” Nystrom said. “The strength and prominence of the arts at Biola is due in no small measure to his leadership.”
Friends and colleagues described Baker as a man with a warm smile, gentle manner, humble spirit of service and robust faith.
“He deeply loved and yearned for God’s heart, the Spirit’s leading and Christ’s compassion,” said Dan Callis, an art professor at Biola since 1987. “As a department chair his leadership was relentless as he advocated for his faculty and his students. From a place of loving trust and respect he created a learning environment that is dynamic and thriving: simultaneously rigorous and full of delight and laughter. As a friend he was a deep feeling man with a compassionate heart: generous with his time, with his prayers and with his love for beauty. He will be deeply, deeply missed.”
In a 2009 devotional article for Biola Magazine, Baker wrote about the strong sense of community within Biola’s art department, and the encouragement and grace that he experienced through his interaction with students.
“After leaving Biola, many of our graduates stay in contact, and in the process our roles gradually change,” he wrote. “We are no longer their professors; we become their friends. They join us in an extended community of Christian artists where there is fellowship and encouragement — sharing our lives, our hopes, our fears, and the joys and the sorrows that are a part of life. Sometimes I forget just how much of a blessing this can be.”
Baker received numerous awards and honors throughout his career, including the 2011 Robert B. Fischer Faculty Award for Excellence from Biola University and a 1993 Christians in the Visual Arts (CIVA) Award of Excellence. He was a member of CIVA and the College Arts Association (CAA), and also served for the past decade as a consultant for the National Association of Schools of Art and Design, the official accreditation agency for art departments and schools throughout North America.
Loren Baker's Memorial Service will be held in Lansing Recital Hall, Crowell Conservatory of Music on Biola's Campus on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 10:30 a.m. Light lunch to follow.
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