Eric Conaway, ’95, is the seventh member of his family to attend Baker University, and it is where he met his wife, Wendy (Zimmerman) Conaway, ’93, MSM ’98. Because of these deep ties and the value the couple places on their Baker education, they were eager to serve as active committee members on the Forever Orange fundraising campaign to help ensure the future of the university they hold dear.
“I think the sense and ability to be involved within various aspects of university life has appealed to several generations of my family,” said Eric, whose hometown is Meriden, Kansas. “Given that most of the family comes from small rural communities, these aspects were particularly appealing.”
For years, Eric’s mother, Karolyn (Perkins) Conaway, ’62, and his Perkins relatives shared stories about their Baker experiences. His uncle Keith Perkins, ’66, grandfather Walter Perkins, ’34, great aunt Blanche Perkins, ’28, and great uncles Dwight and Lee Perkins all attended Baker.
During high school, he looked more seriously into pursuing an education at Baker and becoming a member of Delta Tau Delta. An opportunity to play college baseball, something he had always wanted to do, convinced him that Baldwin City was the place for him.
He credits a lot of his personal and professional success to the lessons learned and the relationships built at Baker. He earned a degree in accounting and now serves as a vice president at Providence Strategic Growth.
“I met my wife of 26 years at Baker and friends that I still take an annual trip with that started on that campus in 1995. Besides giving me an education that I think has stood up well, it gave me confidence through leadership opportunities. I think at Baker you have such an opportunity to develop your social skills if you are willing to be involved. I am confident I would not have developed much of those had I gone somewhere else.”
Eric and Wendy met through friends a few weeks before she graduated in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in business. Four years later, she earned a master’s degree in management from Baker.
Confidence to Lead
Originally from Englewood, Colorado, Wendy visited the Baldwin City campus her senior year in high school.
“I went to a large high school and was looking for a small experience where I could get involved and have a tight-knit group of friends,” she said. “When I visited Baker, I fell in love with the small campus and the students.
“Going to a small school like Baker gave me the confidence to be a leader in class as well as in my sorority. Baker’s experience for me personally has given me lifelong friends, memories that I will never forget. I jumped feet first into college, ready to experience everything. I look back with no regrets. I made great friends, had great experiences, and I learned how to live with people that are different than me. All of these experiences have made me a better person today. Professionally, I felt prepared with my degree.”
At Baker, Wendy was involved in Delta Delta Delta sorority and served as a university ambassador through the parMentor program in which students serve as hosts at university events and work with alumni or Board of Trustees members who serve as career mentors. Professionally, Wendy worked at Hallmark and Sprint, where she managed call center market research for 10 years. She has served as a volunteer for the Blue Valley (Kansas) School District for several years.
“Being part of my sorority was definitely a highlight of my college experience,” she said. “I wanted to be actively involved in college since I didn’t have much opportunity in high school to get involved. Being part of a sorority gives you leadership if you want it, the ability to live with people that you didn’t choose. The girls I have met will always be my friends. We can easily pick up and catch up every time we get together. I loved being a parMentor. This was such a fun experience. It gave me the ability to sharpen my communication skills, be involved with adult leaders, and learn. It is in my nature to serve, so this position was a natural fit for me.”
The Conaways’ Baker legacy continues through their son, Braydon, who is a junior, majoring in education.
“I love that he is attending Baker,” Wendy said. “He has grown into a leader, made lifelong friends, has connected with faculty, and has found a major that he loves and will be great at. He grew up going to Baker football games and experiencing Baker life. But it wasn’t until he visited that he really connected with the admissions counselor who was honest about her Baker experience coming from a high school that is larger than Baker. He loves his experience, and he has made the most out of it. This makes Eric and I so happy that he is enjoying Baker as much as we did.”
Written by Steve Rottinghaus, '14 MSM