History professor has history with Baker


John Richards, chair of the Department of History, Culture and Society, teaches his class on "Early Medieval Europe." Image by Alex Fortuna.

Story by Alex Fortuna

In 1997, Baker University needed a temporary history teacher for the upcoming school year. That’s when a Baldwin City native, John Richards, who had attended Baker for a brief time as a student, brought his knowledge and love for history to Baker by agreeing to take the job.

Almost 20 years have gone by, and Richards is still a history professor at Baker.

“I don’t think I would be teaching here or be where I’m at if I didn’t attend Baker,” said Richards, who is now the chair of the Department of History, Culture & Society.

After his time as a student at Baker, he went on to graduate from the University of Kansas. Richards said he knew he was going to attend Baker as a kid. He was the fifth of six children, and he knew there wasn’t going to be much money for college. Richards was able to attend Baker on a scholarship because his mother was a Baker employee.

“Most people I went to school with don’t remember Baker for the school,” Richards said. “That was crazy for me. I really liked being a student here.”

One professor at Baker remembers Richards in the classroom.

“John (Richards) was very intellectual as a student,” Professor of Philosophy Donald Hatcher said. “He was always interested in the idea of things, and I think he still is as a professor.”

Hatcher was a first-year professor when Richards was a freshman at Baker. Hatcher said he taught Richards in a seminar class about St. Augustine. Hatcher also said that he taught Richards’ brother Kip.

Baker University promotes its small-town, family-like atmosphere, and Richards helps contribute to that goal.

“You don’t get teachers as friendly as Richards,” sophomore Juan Rivera said. “He’s a man of knowledge and is truly focused on getting that knowledge across to his students.”

Students see the impact that Richards has on and off of Baker’s campus.

“You don’t just see him in the classroom. I see Richards around town a lot and I always stop and have a chat with him,” Rivera said. “He’s just that type of teacher.”

Many students and staff members enjoy listening to Richards crack a joke or tell one of his many stories about life in Baldwin City before many people knew the city existed. Richards said he plans on staying at Baker until his teaching days are over.<br/>