On Monday, the University announced that the College’s new Campus North dining hall has officially been named The Frank Baker and Laura Day Dining Commons. The name honors alumnus and College Visiting Committee member Frank Baker, A.B. ’94, his wife, Laura Day, and their $7 million donation to the New Leader Odyssey Scholarship and Internship programs.
Like the Campus North Residential Commons, Baker Dining Hall was designed by Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang Architects. The building will feature two private dining rooms and floor-to-ceiling glass windows overlooking a landscaped quadrangle. Both the residential and dining commons are scheduled to open at the beginning of the 2016–17 academic year.
University president Robert Zimmer stated that the new campus and the Bakers’ gift support the University’s goal to provide all students with a unique educational experience. “The strong intellectual community formed through campus housing is a vital part of that experience. Frank and Laura’s generosity will help broaden access through the Odyssey program, and we honor their dedication to supporting students in achieving academic, personal, and professional success,” Zimmer said in a statement released by the News Office on Monday.
The Bakers’ gift goes toward UChicago’s Odyssey Scholarship Program, which awards lower-income undergraduate students with outstanding academic performance. The program launched in 2007, after an anonymous donor known as Homer gave a $100 million dollar gift and challenged the University to raise up to $150 million. Donors have since then exceeded that goal by $100 million. As of this month, the program is approximately 71 percent of the way to meeting its new goal, $350 million.
The Frank Baker and Laura Day New Leader Odyssey Scholarships and New Leader Odyssey Internships are a part of the New Leader Odyssey Scholarships program. Launched in 2009, these scholarships both fund lower-income students with high academic performance, but they also fund annual stipends for summer research, travel, or internships as well. The Baker and Day Scholarships will be awarded to seven undergraduate students each year.
Baker, a co-founder and managing partner at private equity firm Siris Capital in New York, has served as a member of the University’s College Visiting Committee since 2010. A Sports Illustrated article from 1993 described the two-time Academic All-American football player who also served on Student Government (SG) and the Organization of Black Students as an undergraduate (OBS) “a bruising fullback with the brains of a college professor.” Day owns Laura Day Living, a New-York-based interior design firm.
In the news statement, Baker emphasized the importance of inspiring minority students by giving them as many learning opportunities to succeed as possible. “As a student at the College, I set a goal for myself to help students like me, students of color, to have the transformational experience of a UChicago education. Laura and I hope that through our gift we can inspire minority students to be leaders in their chosen fields,” he said.