Professor Michael Baker: Worldwide leading academic who founded social business in Helensburgh

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Professor Michael John Baker, who died last month at the age of 85 after a brief illness, was a global leader in academic marketing who used his knowledge to start a social business promoting tourism in the Helensburgh area, where he lived for 50 years.

As the author or editor of more than 50 books, including many standard texts, and over 150 scientific articles and essays, Professor Baker won the Institute of Marketing’s gold medal and was named Author of the Year in 1978.

Born in Debden, Essex, but of Yorkshire blood, he was the middle of three children of John and Constance Baker.

John had served in the Royal Flying Corps during World War I, and after running railroads in El Salvador and Palestine between the wars, he rejoined the RAF as a flight lieutenant after the outbreak of hostilities in 1939, which meant the family often returned home moved before settling in the north east of England.

Michael attended Kings College at Durham University, where he represented the university in swimming and rowing before graduating with a BA Hons in geography, philosophy and psychology – he also met his future wife Sheila at a student dance.

Sheila qualified as a registered nurse and midwife and they married in Carlisle in 1959.

Michael initially worked for Richard Thomas and Baldwins in Mayfair in the sale of flat steel, but studied part-time and received a BSc in Economics from the University of London.

After six years of industry experience, he received his first teaching position as a lecturer in business administration at Medway College of Technology before moving to Yorkshire to teach marketing at Hull College of Commerce and Technology.

In 1968 he received a Harvard Business School scholarship as a Foundation for Management Education Fellow and earned a doctorate in business administration, an International Teachers Program Certificate and a diploma in marketing.

A one-year scholarship turned into a three-year stay in the USA and in 1971 Michael wrote his first book Marketing: An Introductory Text in Boston.

During their time at Harvard, Michael and Sheila bought a VW camper and set off on every vacation from 1968 to 1971 with their son and daughter John and Fiona on great adventures all over the USA and Canada.

In 1971 Michael was appointed Founding Professor of Marketing at the University of Strathclyde, so the family sailed home on the QE2 and moved to Helensburgh, where Anne was born in 1972.

In 1978 he became dean of the School of Business Administration before being appointed deputy rector of the university six years later and special advisor to the rector in 1991. In 1983 Michael founded Westburn Publishers Ltd and founded the Journal of Marketing Management, an internationally renowned magazine now in volume 37.

His academic achievements have been recognized with awards such as the Royal Society of Edinburgh Scholarship, honorary doctorates, fellowships and 29 visiting professorships around the world, including Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand.

He and Sheila traveled around the world, as Michael recounted in his 2017 memoir, The Leisure of the Theory Class: A Memoir of a Peripatetic Professor.

Although he retired from Strathclyde in 2000, he remained a professor emeritus and continued to oversee doctoral students, author books and essays, and publish academic journals.

One of his last projects was to establish Destination Helensburgh together with his daughters as the heir of the city and district that he called his home for 50 years.

This social business was set up to promote the region for the social and economic benefit of all residents, with a gift shop and gallery supporting a visitor information center and destination marketing activities.

As an avid gardener, his hobbies in Who’s Who included building bridges and repairing fences, a never-ending task in his garden that he and Sheila opened for charity.

He also enjoyed driving his MGB sports car and walking the West Highland Way with Sheila.

After learning to sail at the Helensburgh Sailing Club, he owned several boats and took great pleasure in restoring a 1930s gentleman cruiser, the Mary Rose of Morar, with his friend and co-owner Aeneas Rosie, who in the summer of the West Coast and the Hebrides crossed – and even seen in the movie The Rocket Post.

A remarkably practical person, he spent many happy hours on wet afternoons in his garage doing various DIY projects.

Michael leaves Sheila, his 62-year-old wife, son John, daughters Fiona and Anne, and granddaughter Katie.

Professor Michael John Baker, November 5, 1935 to August 12, 2021

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