The bells and dings of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at North Memorial Hospital can be both reassuring and unnerving – but for James and Alice Baker of suburban Minneapolis, Minnesota, they sounded like church bells.
In 1999, their son James Timothy – or JT – weighing not much more than a football at 24 ounces, lay in a fully mechanized crib for the first 24 hours after his birth. Supplemental oxygen flowed into his not-yet-fully formed lungs.
Born at 26 weeks, a full three months before full term, to say baby Baker clung to life may be an exaggeration – but not by much. It would be three weeks before the doctors proclaimed that they were out of the woods.
Now, more than 20 years later, JT Baker ’21 would be unrecognizable to any of the nurses working those three months in the NICU. He now stands 6 feet tall and weighs 185 pounds – big enough to play Division I football at Cornell, where he’s a senior in the School of Hotel Administration. And his size hardly matters when he’s in one of a multitude of digital squares during a virtual meeting with other members of the Cornell University Board of Trustees.
As the lone student-athlete on an Ivy League campus to have a vote on his institution’s future, Baker shows no lingering effects from the struggles of his first days as he helps make decisions that set a $14 billion institution on the right course.
Jeremy Hartigan is associate director of athletics for communications.