Stories of gaining confidence, becoming resilient, and expanding world views were shared among Baker alumni back on campus in March to celebrate 20 years since they studied together at Harlaxton College, a life-changing event for many of them.
Dr. Kevin McCarthy, former professor of business and economics at Baker, helped coordinate the reunion. In 2003, he traveled with 19 Baker students to Harlaxton, where he taught three classes and served as their academic adviser.
“We get to know the students very well when we’re abroad,” said McCarthy, who taught again at Harlaxton in 2008 and traveled with students three times to China. “The experience is very much the Baker way, building close relationships with a strong academic emphasis. There’s a transformational power of a semester studying abroad for students and developing as a person, coming away understanding themselves more.”
Eight of the students came back for the reunion at the Alumni Center, traveling from Texas, Oklahoma, and the Kansas City area.
“The reunion meant a lot to our alumni,” McCarthy said. “The connections are still thriving after all these years. They brought back photo albums and scrapbooks since we were living in a nondigital world back in 2003. These alumni are now in their early 40s and lead busy lives.”
Honoring Former Harlaxton Coordinator
During the reunion, the group paid a special tribute, raising a glass to honor Earl Kirk, who passed away in 2019. Kirk was a former study abroad director and Harlaxton coordinator.
“He loved and cared so much for this program,” McCarthy said.
In the late 1980s, Baker partnered with the Harlaxton abroad program in Grantham, England, after Dr. Daniel Lambert became president of Baker University in 1987. Harlaxton is the British campus of the University of Evansville. More than 500 Baker students have studied abroad for a semester at Harlaxton Manor, a 19th century Neo-Elizabethan manor nestled in the English countryside.
Vic Doane, ’04, was among the alumni excited to return for the reunion. Harlaxton is a long way from his hometown of Downs, Kansas, population 800 in north-central Kansas.
“Being a small-town Kansas farm kid, the semester in 2003 connected me with friends, locations, and experiences that were beyond anything I had before,” said Doane, now an architect in the Kansas City area. “That left an indelible mark on how I have managed relationships, my mindset, and how I react to challenges and opportunities. I could not have asked for more than my time at Harlaxton.”
It didn’t take long for the classmates to reconnect.
“Seeing how everyone has grown and changed was only part of the reunion,” Doane said. “The best way I can describe it is like picking up a familiar book you read 20 years ago, and although you know the plot, it makes you smile to remember all the little details you have forgotten over the years.”
Kate (Badenoch) White, ’04, enjoyed catching up with her classmates who traveled to Harlaxton in the early 2000s.
“It’s important to celebrate milestones,” said White, an insurance executive for CEK Insurance in Lawrence, Kansas. “I’m thankful that Baker let us have a place to gather and see each other. For some of us it had been 20 years since we had seen each other while others have stayed connected. It’s always a good idea to strengthen old bonds and celebrate. It was a great time sharing photos, stories—lots of stories—and where we are today.”
Written by Steve Rottinghaus, ’14 MSM