Generous gifts stem from humble origins

April 4th, 2011  |  by  |  Published in People  |  1 Comment

Ray Baker and his dog

Baker and friend

For every high-profile, publicly lauded charitable contribution there is a low-key donor quietly changing lives. Meet three such unassuming heroes—a groundskeeper, hotel maid and sewage plant worker—who together gave more than $2 million to the University of Hawaiʻi.

Sowing the seeds

Working the grounds at UH Mānoa’s Lyon Arboretum for 38 years, Raymond Baker may have made the greatest impact since namesake Harold Lyon.

Attending Mānoa as a Vietnam veteran, Baker drew out his graduate studies to hang on to a much-loved student job at the arboretum until a permanent position as research associate arose. Though he never completed his degree, he gained international recognition for his expertise in palms, gingers and heliconias.

Dressed in fatigues or safari-style work clothes, often carrying a machete and always sporting his signature white mustache, Baker cut an unmistakable figure, assisting visitors and volunteers alike.

In 2005 he was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a serious lung disease with dire consequences. Before his death in 2010 he married Joyce, his partner of 30 years, and established the Raymond F. Baker Fund for Grounds and Living Collections. His $50,000 gift is the first specifically dedicated for maintenance of Lyon Arboretum’s diverse collections, funding workers and tools to get the job done, rain or shine.

Add to his endowment.

Fighting ovarian cancer

Anneliese Lerman snapshot

Lerman. Photo courtesy Alice Takamoto

Born in Germany in 1927, Anneliese Lerman survived the turmoil of World War II and left the country arm in arm with an American G.I. headed home to Hawaiʻi. They eventually divorced, but her career blossomed.

Lerman rose through the hotel ranks from maid to director of housekeeping, supervising staff at hotels including Alexander Young Hotel and Building and AMFAC Hotels and Resorts (formerly Island Holidays).

She took numerous correspondence courses, raised standards, wrote procedures and consulted with hotels internationally and across Hawaiʻi.

A member of the Kawaiahaʻo Church congregation, Lerman died Dec. 7, 1997, after battling ovarian cancer that went undiagnosed for a year, despite her insistence to doctors that something was wrong. Her gift of $469,000 to the UH Cancer Center for ovarian cancer research may save other women from that fate.

Make your own gift.

Supporting sustainability

By all accounts, Isamu Shinshiro lived a quiet life working many years as a sewage treatment plant operator. His name lives on in a $1.6 million endowment to the UH Community Colleges.

Income from the Isamu Shinshiro Scholarship for Sustainable Technology Education and Training Fund will help community college students pursue two-year degrees and certificates in environmental sustainability, Hawaiian cultural values and traditions, food production and sustainability or any construction or carpentry program using sustainable materials.

Before he died in October 2009 at age 96, Shinshiro reportedly cried when he heard how his estate would be used. “Although he knew he would not be alive to see this happen, he was happy to know that he was going to help the youth of Hawaiʻi,” says a friend who assisted with the bequest.

Add to the scholarship.

Plan your gift

To learn more about estate giving, visit the UH Foundation website or call (808) 956-8849 (toll free 1 866 846-4262).

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  1. Helen Brotherton says:

    April 28th, 2011at 7:12 pm(#)

    Thank you. These are amazing individuals, and their stories need to be known.