He’s now professor emeritus, but just call him Mike
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:
“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.”
“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 [email protected]