He’s now professor emeritus, but just call him Mike

March 08, 2016 / by / 7 Comments
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Dr. Mike Baird recently was named the 17th professor emeritus in GCU history.

Dr. Mike Baird recently was named the 17th professor emeritus in GCU history. (Photo by Darryl Webb)

By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau

What we have here is failure to pontificate.

Dr. Mike Baird doesn’t consider himself a big deal even though he recently was named the 17th professor emeritus in Grand Canyon University history (see chart). He takes what he does very seriously, but his self-deprecating sense of humor would never him allow him to look at himself that way.

GCU’s professors emeriti

2001: Roland Beck, Betty Beck, J. Niles Puckett, Dave Brazell, Mildred Brazell

2002: Ralph T. Bryan, Clarice Maben, D.C. Martin

2004: John Howerton, Paul Paige, Ron Phillips, Paul Youngs

2006: Dr. Jim Witherspoon, Dr. Barbara Hoffman

2008: Dr. Rob Jones, Jeanne Siebenman

2016: Dr. Mike Baird

Especially when he now has the same title that two other legendary College of Theology professors, Dr. J. Niles Puckett and Dr. D.C. Martin, once did.

“Those guys are my idols — seriously,” Baird said. “After D.C. passed away in 1995, we declared him ‘St. Martin,’ and we’ve been meeting ever since then with our ‘St. Martin Society.’ He was my mentor when I first came, and Dr. Puckett was my teacher. I actually studied Greek and the New Testament, which became my career, under Dr. Puckett, and then he was there when I came to teach, and Dr. Martin was there, too.

“I don’t see myself in that league, obviously. I mean, I know I stayed 36 years and that’s not a small thing to be able to do, but there are a lot of other people who stayed many, many years. So I am just honored, very honored.”

Dr. Jason Hiles, the COT dean, humbly disagrees. He sees a man who still writes curriculum and teaches online classes and calls Baird “a pillar within the College of Theology throughout his tenure at GCU.” That, said Hiles, made it an easy call for him and GCU’s provost, Dr. Hank Radda:

Dr. Baird's retirement party last year showed just how much he is loved and respected in the College of Theology.

Dr. Baird’s retirement party last year showed how much he is beloved and respected in the College of Theology.

“I said, ‘Dr. Radda, there’s an opportunity here with Mike. He’s been around for 36 years. This is a person who continues to teach, but he brings more to the table. He’s like part of the family still, and students look up to him and they’re gaining from him and he’s shaping a curriculum as well.’

“I said, ‘Would you like to promote him to professor emeritus as opposed to just a regular adjunct? He’s still involved in conversations with our full-time faculty, for heaven’s sake.’ It didn’t take any convincing. In fact, Dr. Radda said, ‘Why don’t you give me something hard to decide? That’s pretty easy.'”

Radda had seen how beloved and respected Baird is when he attended the longtime professor’s retirement party last year.

“His impact on many generations of students was clear,” Radda said. “From current students to alumni who now themselves were faculty, he mentored, guided and encouraged the Christian mission of the University. His impact was experienced and appreciated as a teacher, colleague, leader, follower and friend.”

Baird’s retirement preceded another major event in his life — he underwent surgery to have his left knee replaced. He’s not the first member of his family to have knee trouble. So many of the Bairds have undergone the procedure, he said, “I’m thinking it’s just DNA.”

Baird has remained very much involved in the College of Theology since his retirement. (Photo by Darryl Webb)

Baird has remained very much involved in the College of Theology since his retirement. (Photo by Darryl Webb)

“About a year ago, I finally realized my life was not going to be anywhere near normal with my knee the way it was. It was just bad. It was bone on bone — pain all the time. Before I retired, I said, ‘It’s got to be done this summer.'”

Baird continued to write curriculum for the University’s master of divinity (M.Div.) program during the 2½ months he was recuperating, and once he healed he took advantage of his newfound free time to start hiking two days a week.

But that hardly means he’s not still heavily involved in the College of Theology. He still likes to get up in the morning and write curriculum while the coffee is brewing, and he meets regularly with curriculum designers. But he has a typically humble approach to the concept of other instructors teaching the curriculum he devised.

“It’s very tricky,” he said. “In fact, I’ve told my colleagues more than once, ‘Guys, I’m sorry that you’re having to teach a class that I wrote.’ Even in my mind, I thought, ‘Is this going to be something that’s going to work for them?’

“I’ve just always thought that I’ve got to do the best I can to make it something they can use or adapt, and nobody’s ever thrown any tomatoes at me, so I guess it hasn’t been too bad.”

Tomatoes? How about bouquets? Said Dr. Joshua Greever, one of the instructors tasked with following through on Baird’s curriculum, “They were easy to understand for instructors and students alike as well as easy to implement in the online modality. From the students’ perspective, the assignments are not always easy to complete, though.”

Being an adjunct has helped him, Baird said, “because it gave me a chance to see how what I write treats the teacher.” And Baird also puts himself in the shoes of others when he considers his new professor emeritus role.

“I certainly do trust Jason and Hank’s judgment, but I want to stress that there are an awful lot of faculty members who have done every bit as much as me who may or not be declared emeritus but deserve it,” he said. “I think I would say I’m not emeritus, but I represent faculty members who are truly emeritus. And I’m sure that’s true of J. Niles Puckett and D.C. Martin — we just represent the great contributions of faculty members all through the decades.”

And that’s the biggest deal of all.

Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or rick.vacek@gcu.edu.


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7 Responses
  1. Brent Cunningham

    This is so great to see! I learned much from Drs. Baird, Youngblood, Gaines, and James White during my four years at GCU (’93-’97). Congratulations to you Dr. Baird!

    Mar.11.2016 at 2:51 pm
  2. joanne Monk

    Dr Baird

    Your class was my favorite in my undergrad! You were also the most encouraging of my instructors when I finished my last final in your class to go to Save A Day surgery prep at St Joseph’s for brain surgery. I still remember your exhortations and well wishes!

    Mar.14.2016 at 12:50 pm
  3. Stacey Bittner

    Congratulations to you Dr. Baird! You deserve this! (Class of ’96)

    Apr.04.2016 at 2:59 pm
  4. Bill Weide

    I was in Mike’s Greek class back in 1969. I would get up at 4 am to study for Dr. Puckett’s class. Mike would be sitting in the student center 10 minutes before class doing his studying.

    Apr.04.2016 at 3:13 pm
  5. Bill Henderson

    Dr. Baird, congratulations on the honor you have received. Thank you for your steadfast efforts at GCU through the decades. You and Dr. Youngblood were a blessing to me and many others, Glad to hear about your work with curriculum writing. Dr. Martin, Dr. Puckett and others would be very pleased.

    Apr.04.2016 at 3:45 pm
  6. Peter Celum

    Congratulations, Dr. Baird! You are well-deserving of this distinction. As one of your first Greek students at GCC in 1981, I learned much and am now teaching some basic Greek to one of my inmates in the chapel at High Desert State Prison (Susanville, CA) where I serve as chaplain. But I most remember your encouragement as you were instrumental in helping me discern God’s call to Bangladesh as a BSU summer missionary in 1982. Blessings, my friend, and enjoy those hikes!

    Apr.05.2016 at 9:47 am
  7. Pat Hail, Jr.

    Thank you, Dr. Mike Baird. Thirty-seven years ago, I drove my ’72 Chevy Pickup (which I still drive) from Las Vegas via St. George, UT to Grand Canyon College (GCC) to begin my education for ministry. One of the very first people I met was Mr. Mike Baird, Dean of Students at GCU. Mike was young but seemed older and very wise. He was compassionate for the students on who we might serve the Lord best. He counseled, encouraged, coached me and so many others.

    I appreciate all of my professors and mentors at GCC/GCU and certainly the friendships and memories made a GCU. I am most thankful for Mike and so many others at GCU you gave willingly and sacrificially to educate a new wet behind the ears preacher boy, who married well while at GCU and has been blessed with five children (a handsome grandson) and a lifetime of ups and downs of being in the ministry.

    Mike, you played a strategic role in my development for the ministry. Thanks for being so willing.

    Blessings,

    Rev. Pat Hail, Jr.

    Apr.07.2016 at 5:16 am
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