Patty and Jay Baker Donate $15 Million to Hunter, Giving the Theatre Department Its Own Building

January 27, 2014 | Hunter College

Patty and Jay Baker

Patty and Jay Baker

Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of Hunter trustee Patty Baker ’82 and her husband, Jay, Hunter’s Department of Theatre will soon have a beautiful new home. The Bakers’ gift was announced on January 13, at a meeting of the Hunter College Foundation Board of Trustees.

Their gift funds the acquisition and renovation of a landmarked 26,000-square-foot building on East 67th Street. Because the building has housed the Kennedy Child Study Center, a school owned by the Archdiocese of New York, its sale required Vatican approval.

Patty Baker attended Hunter following a career as a flight attendant and work at Tiffany & Co. Now a Broadway producer, she credits a Hunter theatre course for sparking an interest that led to a new vocation, Tony honors, and, most recently, the musical Beautiful, about singer/composer Carole King.

Jay Baker, the longtime president of Kohl’s, retired after building the company into a retail giant. In philanthropic partnership with his wife, he now devotes himself to supporting excellence in higher education.

The Bakers had advised Hunter of their plan to donate $10 million. But true to their love for great drama, the couple arrived at the trustees’ meeting with a spectacular new script. After President Raab announced the multimillion-dollar gift, they raised their hands and revealed that they were increasing the sum by 50 percent. Members of the theatre faculty and a number of theatre students were present, and the room erupted in cheers and applause.

The Department of Theatre’s new home will be named Baker Hall.