Athletes often proclaim the tale that they’ve trained their whole lives for a specific competition or tournament. Many forego traditional school and transfer online in order to have more time training for the sport. Ron Baker (’66 Lambda-Zeta) took the opposite route to athletic success.
Union University Lambda-Zeta was colonized in the year 1964, meaning that Baker was one of the founding members when it was established on campus. In the pursuit to recruit more men in their early years, he turned to other organizations to gain interest.
“You might say there was a connection between my involvement as a Lambda Chi and my involvement with track and cross-country. I did not do sports in high school; I didn’t know I could run. When I got in Lambda Chi and started that fall, I tried to get our name recognized by being involved in as many activities as I could” explains Baker.
Once he joined the intramural cross-country team, the coach for the competitive team sent Baker an invitation to try out. That invitation lead to 7 total varsity letters in track and cross-country, a school, track and conference record for the half mile, becoming one of the top three cross-country runners for the remainder of his time on the team, and exceptional times for the mile and two-mile run.
While his athletic career was an important building block for Baker, his passion for ministry took precedent upon graduation. Baker spent nearly a semi-centennial in ministry with Southern Baptist communities of five different congregations. His track and cross-country accomplishments became a distant memory until his son got a phone call that Baker had been selected as one of six recipients to be featured in the Union University Sports Hall of Fame.
“Instead of sending me a letter, he called my son. They [his two sons] were able to then pull things together to make the announcement at a family Christmas celebration. It was a moving experience.”
Inductees are typically given a letter to congratulate them on their acceptance into the Hall of Fame and invited to a ceremony in honor of the recipients. When Baker received his specially framed copy on Christmas, he was overcome with emotion. He explains that having his family and alma mater recognize something he did 55 years ago was overwhelming.
As Baker reflects on his time as a runner and member of Lambda Chi, he focuses on how the two encouraged him to become a more well-rounded individual. The necessary skills needed to teach in the Southern Baptist church were fulfilled through the lessons he learned during his years in the organizations.
“I think Lambda Chi was a huge asset to me personally. When I started at Union I was not totally shy, but not as outgoing as the others. But being a part of Lambda Chi and the track and cross-country team helped to give me a little more confidence in myself.”
With his newfound confidence, Baker was able to create and continue friendships have lasted a lifetime. By reminding himself to have a positive attitude each morning, he is able to encourage and uplift those that touch his life.
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