In 1937 Joseph E. Lake hitchhiked almost 250 miles across Kansas from his hometown of Gaylord to attend Baker University. The grandson of a Methodist minister, Joseph had a partial academic scholarship and left home with just $8 in his pocket. He knew how much of an achievement it was just to be admitted to Baker, but he also knew how hard he was going to have to work to stay and graduate.
As a young boy, Joseph watched the dedication and sacrifice of his mother, Ada Hopkins Lake. Ada was committed to obtaining a strong educational foundation. She was a Kansas teacher and school principal who used her educational foundation to instruct and inspire the rural students she taught. This educational foundation not only inspired her students but also her son, Joseph. He recognized the amount of perseverance it required to support her family for many years—especially during periods of hardship such as the Dust Bowl and Great Depression—while his father, Ralph, was on the road traveling across the Midwest by train to sell drugstore supplies. Together, Ada and Joseph lived in a room inside a boarding house and, although she couldn’t afford to send Joseph to college, she would not accept him not attending as an option. She valued education so highly that she helped him obtain a loan from the Methodist Church to attend Baker University.
Joseph worked tirelessly between classes to have enough money to pay for somewhere to sleep, and he worked at a local diner so he would have a meal after each of his shifts. And, thankfully, the men of the Zeta Chi fraternity took him in and let him sleep in their kitchen for free if he agreed to keep their coal furnace going at night. Joseph agreed and was even initiated into the chapter.
While at Baker, Joseph met his BU sweetheart, Jan. She arrived at Baker as a 16-year-old and joined Alpha Chi Omega. On their first date, Joseph arrived at the Alpha Chi house to pick up Jan wearing a bright green suit he had purchased from a secondhand store. He had never owned a suit before and was proud of his purchase.
Joseph and Jan were married upon Joseph’s graduation from Baker in 1941. They had three daughters: Sally, Margaret, and Nancy. Throughout their lives, Joseph conveyed to his daughters the importance of education and attending college, a value passed on from his mother.
After graduation, Joseph enlisted in the Army Air Corps. After leaving the military, he moved his family to Minnesota, where he got his first opportunity to follow his passion for television at KCMO. He concluded his career as the general manager of the CBS television station in Sacramento. His experience at Baker had made a transformational impact on his life. That impact combined with his hard work and strong work ethic resulted in his success in moving from TV advertisement sales to senior-level management of a major television station.
Throughout his life, Joseph knew that he wanted to help future students attend school and focus on their education instead of having to work while in school like he had. In his passing, Joseph left more than $2 million to Baker University to establish the Ada Hopkins Lake Endowed Scholarship Fund in honor of his mother who had instilled the value of education in him at a young age. The Ada Hopkins Lake Endowed Scholarship Fund will provide one student full tuition, fees, on-campus housing, a meal plan, and a book award. The first scholarship was awarded for the 2019-2020 academic year and will be awarded again in 2020. It will be given every other year after that.
“He wanted to give the gift to students so they wouldn’t have to worry about meals and food and where they were going to sleep at night,” Joseph’s daughter Margaret said. “He wanted them to have a chance to just be students, to benefit from just being students.”
The first Ada Hopkins Lake Endowed Scholarship was awarded to Jezeriah Simpson from Uniontown, Kansas, who began classes at Baker in the fall.
“I am so extremely thankful to have received such a generous gift. My life is truly changed for the better. It means the world to me to have people believe in me, and I will work extremely hard to make the most of this opportunity. I hope to one day be able to pay it forward and provide someone else with an opportunity to live out their dreams as well,” Simpson said. “I cannot express my gratitude enough to the people that made this possible, so I hope my actions will one day speak for me.”