It is with deep regret I advise you that Professor Joe Baker AO, OBE passed away unexpectedly earlier today.
Joe Baker, after whom our multipurpose sports field on the Douglas campus is named, was a foundation staff member at the University College of Townsville. He remained involved with James Cook University throughout his life, acting as a mentor to staff and students and giving freely of his time and advocacy to advance the mission of the University - to conduct teaching and research on issues of importance to the tropics.
Joe had a distinguished career and was publicly recognised for his contributions to chemistry, marine biology, and the study of the environment more broadly. He was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1982 for services to marine science, and appointed as an officer in the Order of Australia in 2002 for his contribution to environmental studies and chemistry.
Joe commenced his academic career as a Demonstrator in the Chemistry Department at the University of Queensland in 1956. He worked in that capacity until the opportunity arose from him to take up a lectureship at the newly established University College of Townsville in 1961. He completed his PhD in 1966 and, when the University College became James Cook University in 1970, was promoted to Associate Professor of Chemistry. Joe remained in that position until 1973 when he relocated to Sydney to take up a position as Director, Roche Research Institute of Marine Pharmacology. He returned to James Cook University in 1981 when he was appointed as the Director of the newly established Sir George Fisher Centre for Tropical Marine Studies, a position he held until 1985 when he was appointed as the Director of the Australian Institute of Marine Science. Among other roles, in 1999 Joe accepted the position of Chief Scientist for the Queensland Department of Primary Industries, a position he held for many years.
In addition to his academic contribution, Joe was a passionate sportsman and coach, who had an enormous impact on the lives of students involved with the James Cook University Rugby League Football Club, a club he was instrumental in establishing in 1961. Indeed, Joe was a member of the 1959 Queensland State Rugby League team, which was the last team to defeat NSW prior to the State of Origin era. In response to a request made by the University’s Rugby League Football Club, the multipurpose sports field on the Douglas campus was named the Joe Baker Field in 2011, with Joe able to attend the official opening.
Joe was a truly marvelous person. A man of great integrity and energy, a role model for many, who made an enormous contribution over the course of his life. To simply have had the opportunity to spend some time with him was a profound privilege. He will be missed by all those who knew him.
Vale Joe Baker.
Professor Sandra Harding
Vice Chancellor and President
James Cook University
Australia – Singapore