Socially Conscious Wealth Manager Invests in Hartwick’s Change Agents

Simon Baker ’93 came to Hartwick in 1989 from the United Kingdom, thrilled for the chance to play soccer at a college with a strong history of success. However, it wasn’t long before his definition of success would evolve. Looking back, it’s the many classroom and other academic experiences that he holds most dear among his Hartwick highlight reel.

“There is incredible value in having a full liberal arts educational experience. Today, I look for ways to make a meaningful impact and have a positive change. That’s something that was instilled in me on the Hartwick campus.”

Simon Baker ’93

Founder and CEO of BakerAvenue Wealth Management, San Francisco, CA

Baker puts his money where his mouth is – and helps others do the same. His firm emphasizes social responsibility and value alignment in its decision making, believing that an economically efficient and sustainable global financial system is a necessity for long-term success. As a certified B Corporation and a signatory of the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), Baker understands the value of bridging social and financial goals for long-term value creation.

He credits his Oyaron Hill mentors for creating that sense of duty and awareness which has been key to his professional success and personal sense of accomplishments. They include Penny Whiteman, his accounting professor, who has counseled him for 35 years and counting. She also guided him as he established an endowment to provide generations of students with similar value-shaping experiences.

“This is what makes Hartwick so special – the Pennys of the world,” Baker attests.

With additional inspiration from longtime friend, philanthropist and mentor Barclay Simpson, in 2014 he created the Baker Simpson Entrepreneurial Leadership Program. It is an immersive fellowship designed to let Hartwick students explore their aspirations in and around social entrepreneurship, innovation and global impact. More than just a paid internship, the experience covers all tuition, books and travel to and from San Francisco. It also includes a stipend of up to $10,000.

“I wanted to get students outside of their comfort zones, broaden their horizons and feel inspired,” he explains. “They’re working with staff often just a few years older than them, seeing how they are truly transforming the world. We’re teaching them how to become agents of positive change.”

It’s fitting, then, that the program itself would have to evolve in order to provide the best value and experience for its participants.

When it began, the fellows traveled to San Francisco and worked physically alongside their mentors for several weeks each summer. However, the hybrid working norms which have followed the pandemic now make that less practical – and accurate.

“[Employees at] most companies now are only in the office maybe three days a week,” Baker says.

Today’s fellows may not spend as much time in California, but they can still participate in the program wherever they are – and do so effectively.

“It’s just the reality of the new world we’re living in, but a key point of the program is building relationships and experiencing strong mentorship from wherever they are,” he adds.

Mentorship is paramount to Baker, and it’s still what excites him most when he meets with students.

“For me, it’s when you see them have that ‘a-ha!’ moment,” he says. “To see them identify a problem and then help solve it – not just be put in a box and told you can’t make a difference.”

A close second is the momentum happening at his alma mater. Baker remains bullish on Hartwick’s future because he supports the vision which new President Darren Reisberg shared with him.

“I had a chance to meet the president, and I like what he’s trying to create,” Baker reports. “I liked his energy and I believe in him. I want to support him. I owe a lot of my modest success to the time I had at Hartwick, and I want to be the kind of person who pays it forward.”

To that end, Baker also sees his investment as a leadership role – a call-to-action to fellow alumni. He’s happy to share his story and advice with those ready to add their support at this pivotal moment.

“Look, the world needs more educated, committed and civically minded leaders."

Simon Baker ’93

Founder and CEO of BakerAvenue Wealth Management in San Francisco, CA

“Let’s help these students identify their strengths and direct them in the best possible way. Whether it’s food insecurity, climate justice, refugee rights, healthcare access or what have you, they want to make the world better somehow and we have a responsibility to help them,” Baker insists. “I encourage more alumni to reconnect with the campus, because it really does take a village. With the right education – a liberal arts education – Hartwick has an opportunity to create and nurture these much-needed agents of change.”

May 17, 2023
Alumni Spotlight, Griffiths Center for Collaboration & Innovation, President's Report 2023, Spotlight

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