Nancy Baker ’56 Inducted 1997
One of the true pioneers in women's collegiate athletics, Nancy Adolphson Baker started the- women's gymnastics program at Gustavus in 1962. After graduating from Gustavus with a physical education major in 1956, Baker taught in North Mankato and St. Peter for two years before returning to her alma mater as a professor of physical education in 1958.
Working with Bill Watson, the owner of a highly regarded school of gymnastics in Minneapolis, Baker helped organize a gymnastics workshop for teachers and participants that turned out many of the top coaches and gymnasts in the region during the 1960s. Under Baker's direction, Gustavus sponsored the first women's gymnastics meet in the state in 1963 and thus began a gymnastics dynasty that remains to this day.
From 1966, when the first state college meet was held, until 1982, when the state meet was no longer held, Baker led Gustavus to 15 titles in 17 appearances. Regional and national competitions commenced in the early 1970s and Baker again had her program at the front of the pack with a second-place finish at the first regional meet and an eighth place finish at the first national meet in 1971.
In 1982, the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) hosted its first national championship for small colleges and, sure enough, Gustavus walked away with the title. Baker led her team to seven small college national titles between 1982 and 1992 when she retired. In her 30-year coaching career, Baker coached five All-Around National Champions, 14 individual event national champions, and 34 All-Americans.
She has been very involved in the organization and administration of small college gymnastics, having served as gymnastics chairperson for the AIAW, National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and the National Collegiate Gymnastics Association (NCGA). Her peers selected her as the Division III National Coach of the Year in 1982, 1984, 1989 and 1992. Baker's contributions to the athletic department have not been limited to gymnastics as she has also coached the swimming team and served as the Director of Women's Athletics from 1970 until 1979.
Since retiring from coaching in 1992, Baker has continued teaching in the health and exercise science department. She received the Edgar Carlson Award for innovative teaching from the College in 1983 and the College's Community Service award in 1990. She is also just completing 15 years of service on the St. Peter School Board. Nancy resides in St. Peter with her husband, Richard. They have two children, Geri Halbert '77 and Pat '79.