Baker University Admissions Assistant Morgan Thomas giving tour of campus to prospective student

History & Traditions

It started as an attempt to tame the rough Kansas territory more than 160 years ago and has evolved into a comprehensive and highly respected university serving nearly 4,000 students across campuses in Kansas and online around the world.

Black and white photo of students walking on campus in the early 1900s by Case Hall
Students walking on campus in front of Parmenter Hall
Graduate in a cap and gown smiling for a photo with her dad
Bagpipe and drum line players walking by Mabee Hall for commencement


A Rich History of Excellence & Support

Baker University was chartered on February 12, 1858. Named for Osmon Cleander Baker, a distinguished scholar and bishop of what is now the United Methodist Church, the school holds the honor of being the first four-year university in Kansas. The School of Professional and Graduate Studies was formed in 1988. The School of Nursing was formed in 1991 when Baker entered into a cooperative agreement with Stormont-Vail Regional Medical Center, now known as Stormont Vail Health, in Topeka. The School of Education was formed in 2005.

Successful Graduates

Baker graduates have gone on to successful careers as writers, scientists, explorers, teachers, business professionals, performers, politicians, academicians, visionaries, trendsetters, and more. Four graduates have been named Rhodes Scholars and one has earned a Pulitzer Prize. Baker University has a rich history within intimate academic settings, filled with traditions, memories, and landmarks. In fact, three buildings on Baker’s Baldwin City campus are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Evolving Traditions

Campus traditions—academic, professional, and social—have evolved throughout Baker’s history. The university has faced adversity, prosperity, tragedy, and joy, and through it all, Baker’s students and professors have retained a close-knit sense of community. The result is a highly respected community of higher learning.

The Gates of Baker University

Passing on the traditions through generations.

Baker University’s class of 1891 began the tradition of naming itself and at graduation bequeathing its title to the incoming freshman class. There are four class organizations:

  • Columbian Commonwealth | 2024
  • Senatus Romanus | 2025
  • King Arthur’s Court | 2026
  • House of Hanover | 2027

Incoming freshmen classes begin their class’s tradition by officially entering campus on Traditions Night through their class gate. When they graduate, they depart Baker the same way, through their gate.

Baker University Arch

Class Organizations 

House of Hanover

  • Formed in 1891 and patterned after German and English history
  • Colors: Navy blue and gold
  • Class officer titles: King, queen, crown prince, crown princess, duke, duchess, count, countess, prime minister, canon of Westminster, court fool, class historian
  • The Hanover class of 1895 started the custom of publishing a college annual. The first volume was called Orange Blossoms. A poem by Ida Ahlborn Weeks, “Ein Lied fur das Haus Hanover,” is preserved in the Orange Blossoms published by the House of Hanover that graduated in 1899.
  • This class drew from the German stories of the Nibelungenlied for its pageants for class day during commencement week.
  • When Baker President Murlin (1894-1911) and his wife entertained the Hanover seniors, a German play was usually presented.
  • The organization of Hanover House has been continued by the classes of 1899, 1903, 07, 11, 15, 19, 23, 27, 31, 35, 39, 43, 47, 51. . . 2007, 2011, 2015, 2019, 2023, 2027, 2031
  • Early gifts to the University: Reading lams in the library, windows in the new church, and the parking lot west of the athletic field
  • Early members boasted college orators and chief athletes.
  • Class gate: East side of campus
  • Class yell: Ho fur den Konig, Ho fur den Hof, and Hanover ein und neunzig

Columbian Commonwealth

  • Formed in 1892 and patterned after early American government
  • Colors: Red, white and blue
  • Class officer titles: president, vice president, secretary of state, secretary of treasury, attorney general, and other officers of our government
  • A picture in the first annual published by the organization, The Baker Hatchet, shows members of the Columbian Commonwealth at a costume party dressed as George Washington and his Cabinet, Dec. 7, 1893.
  • Commencement pageants in the early years pictured scenes from early American history, songs from Dixie, stories of the central plains and the mountains of the west.
  • Early gifts to the University: drinking fountains in Case Library, the library clock, church choir robes, the pulpit desk in the chapel, and the west gate
  • Early members boasted college orators, debaters and football heroes.
  • The organization of Columbian Commonwealth has been continued by the classes of 1896, 1900, 04, 08, 12, 16, 20, 24, 28, 32, 36, 40, 44, 48, 52 . . . 2008, 2012, 2016, 2020, 2024, 2028.
  • Class gate: West side of campus
  • Class motto: Deeds, not dreams.

Senatus Romanus

  • Formed in 1893 and patterned after the Roman Senate
  • Colors: Purple and white
  • Class officer titles: Consul primus, consul secundus, censor primus, censor secundus, quaestor, praetor, tribune, angur, pontifex maximus, aedile
  • Commencement pageants in the early years were taken from Roman history and mythology. Their first social event was a Roman banquet by which the organization announced its existence.
  • Early gifts to the University: pictures on the second floor of the library, gate at the southwest corner of the campus and also at the north entrance, stone border around Lake Parmenter, and $465 to apply toward the memorial fence at the athletic field
  • The organization of Senatus Romanus has been continued by the classes of 1897, 1901, 05, 09, 13, 17, 21, 25, 29, 33, 37, 41, 45, 49, 53 . . . 2009, 2013, 2017, 2021, 2025, 2029.
  • Class gate: Southwest corner of campus
  • Class motto: Volens et Potens.
  • Official yell of the first class of 1897: Io! Ho!, Nihil Umquam, Vincet Classem, Nonaginta Septem, Io! Ho!

King Arthur’s Court

  • Formed in 1894 and patterned after the “dwellers of Mount Parnassus,” or the Greeks, Tennyson’s Idylls of the King and Malory’s King Arthur and His Knights
  • Colors: White and gold
  • Class officer titles: King Arthur, Queen, Merlin the wizard, Dagonet, Excalibur and others as needed
  • First annual was named Excalibur.
  • Commencement pageants in the early years were drawn from Tennyson’s Idylls.
  • Early gifts to the University: Big clock in the gymnasium tower, bell tower west of Old Science Hall, cement tennis court, and a large gift in 1930 on the Million Dollar Endowment Campaign
  • The organization of King Arthur’s Court has been continued by the classes of 1898, 1902, 06, 10, 14, 18, 22, 26, 30, 34, 38, 42, 46, 50
    . . . 2006, 2010, 2014, 2018, 2022, 2026.
  • Class gate: Northeast corner of campus
  • Class song (to the tune of the “Canadian Maple Leaf”): Heigh ho! Heigh ho! Ye Knights of old King Arthur’s Court forever Heigh ho! Heigh ho! The white and gold King Arthur’s Court forever