James (B.S. '49, physics) and Dorothy (B.S. '51, physics) Baker celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary last month
When they married two years later in 1948, they had no clue that today they would be the longest-married alumni couple from the university’s College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences.
That they met at all was serendipitous, as neither planned to study physics. James arrived at UMD in 1942 and entered the general studies program. After being called to active duty in 1944 and serving two years in the U.S. Navy, James was discharged. John Toll, then a professor of physics at UMD, recruited James into the physics program at Maryland.
Dorothy took a different route to becoming a physics major.
“Back in the day, you had to register in person,” Dorothy explained. “And there was a long line of men standing in front of physics. When I saw that, I decided to get in the same line. And that’s how I came to be in physics!”
For their first date, James invited Dorothy to a dance at the Reckord Armory.
“In high school, I was voted best dancer in my class,” James said. “But Dorothy was a really good dancer. She followed everything that I did. We had a good time, and I didn’t kiss her goodnight until the second date.”
In 1948, while still in college, James and Dorothy tied the knot at Takoma Park Presbyterian Church. A year later, their daughter Dolly (B.A. ’72, geography) was born, who was followed by their son Russell in 1951.
Dolly, a botanical illustrator, previously worked for the late James Reveal, a professor in the Department and director of the Norton-Brown Herbarium at UMD. Russell is the construction and property manager for W.F. Chesley Real Estate, LLC. Today, the Bakers have five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
Dorothy took a year off from school to care for Dolly, but returned and graduated thanks to the help of her parents, who lived in nearby Takoma Park.
After graduating, James worked for Toll. James drove to various colleges on the East Coast to convince undergraduate physics students to pursue graduate school at UMD. James and Dorothy also worked for some time at a restaurant called the Terrapin Inn, which was located near where Bagel Place of College Park stands today. There, James washed dishes and Dorothy sold jewelry in the gift shop.
By 1960, James’ career took him to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, where he helped develop communications satellites. Dorothy worked at the former Naval Ordnance Laboratory in White Oak, Maryland, studying wind tunnels used for testing rocket aerodynamics.
After James retired from NASA, he and Dorothy started a consulting company called the Baker Development Corporation. One of the company’s projects was developing a shipboard communications system for search and rescue using satellites that James helped launch at NASA.
Now fully retired, the couple celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary on January 31, 2018, with a family lunch in Annapolis, Maryland, at Severn Inn where their grandson Nick Baker is executive chef.
When asked the secret to their long marriage, the couple offered some pragmatic advice.
“If we have a fight, we get over it,” Dorothy said.
“And whenever we get in a strenuous argument, I go into the other room,” James added.
Media Relations Contact: Irene Ying, 301-405-5204, firstname.lastname@example.org
About the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences
The College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland educates more than 9,000 future scientific leaders in its undergraduate and graduate programs each year. The college’s 10 departments and more than a dozen interdisciplinary research centers foster scientific discovery with annual sponsored research funding exceeding $175 million.