We met Rick Baker at Metropolitan College of New York’s 50th Anniversary gala held October 23rd at The Plaza Hotel in Manhattan. He received the coveted Champion Award for his success as an entrepreneur and philanthropist.
The college’s late founder, pioneer Audrey Cohen, would also find that Mr. Baker, CEO, Baker & Associates, earned the honor as a “role model of integrity” – the same reason the nationally known wealth advisor credits his parents, John E. Baker and Eleena Baker of Boaz, Alabama, pictured.
In his acceptance speech, Mr. Baker championed his parents Mr. and Mrs. Baker, now married 71 years, for their hard work; their success, their commitment and their lasting lessons in ethics, “hard work, loyalty and dedication” that permeate the professional and personal life of Mr. Baker to this day.
According to the MCNY program notes, “One of the highlights of Rick’s life is that his parents continue to run their lives just as they ran their small farm with trust and a handshake.
“Having only a fourth-grade education, Rick’s father (of the Echota Cherokee Tribe) taught him more about finances than anyone else. His father once said, ‘Money is like a rope, you can use it to climb up and then help other people who are less fortunate, or you can hang yourself’.”
That kind of teaching was passed down through the generations from Mr. Baker’s Cherokee ancestors. And even the “passing down” is a lesson in sustainability.
Echota Legacy Lives
The Echota Cherokee Tribe of Alabama, Mr. Baker informed Our Time Press, is recognized by the U.S. Government, but because of its small size, never received the benefits that the bigger tribes were given. “There are less than 20,000 remaining members, and most of (my) ancestors died on the Trail of Tears.”
Yet, lessons from the ancestors prevail in this family where every day lived, every lesson remembered, is a reason for thanksgivings.
In the Echota Cherokee Tribe, says Baker, “Wealth is not monetarily measured. True wealth is the ability to pursue only those things that capture your heart”.
Rick Baker’s Speech Upon Acceptance of “Champion” Honor
MCNY’s 50th Anniversary Gala, Oct. 23, 2014
“It was the spring of 1947: I (now) wonder what my dad was thinking as he spoke to the President of First State Bank of Alabama. My dad was asking for a loan of $75. The monies would be used for two primary things:
Plant/maintain/harvest a crop of 20 acres of cotton.
Buy food and pay utilities.
My father’s loan request was firmly declined. How bad that must have been for him, how humiliating and embarrassing. My father still has the decline letter he recently showed me. He was declined because:
He was a minority- a Native American Indian.
He was poor.
He was illiterate.
I wonder what my mom and dad’s life would have been like had they been able to attend the Metropolitan College of New York. I believe their life, and even mine, would have been easier.
Being the only son, I came home to the farm on every college break to help my parents. I vividly remember my father’s hand crack open and bleed from the hard work. I wondered, at that pace, how much longer he would live.
Today, my father is still a minority.
Today, my father is still illiterate.
Today, because my father made me get an education, he ain’t poor anymore!
Last week, my mom and dad (in good health) celebrated their 71st Wedding Anniversary.
Malala Yousafzai (the 17-year-old Nobel Peace Prizewinner) said, ‘School is like walking through a magic door to your dreams’.”
“Audrey Cohen built that magic door 50 years ago and I wonder if she knew how many thousands of people’s lives she would touch. I wonder if she knew her daughter Wendy Cohen would keep the magic door open and continue making dreams come true.”
“I am only the beneficiary of this award. I share it with my family who taught me that philanthropy is about giving from the heart.”
Rick Baker on a Lesson Learned and Applied
“”I have learned many lessons from my father (John E. Baker on left) and grandfather. One that sticks out in my mind is an old Native American story. The story describes the tribal chief speaking to a group of young boys. He tells them, ‘I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One is mean, angry and violent. The other one is loving, compassionate and kind’. One of the boys asked the question, ‘Which one will win’? The chief answers, ‘The one that I feed.’ ” Rick Baker lives in Atlanta with his wife Lina Lopez, (far right) where they are raising four children. The couple is seen here with parents John E. Baker and Eleena Baker. When not working or busy with family and charity work, Rick enjoys yoga and attends to his world-class vintage guitar collection.
Rick Baker on his Professional Team
“I have found that people who go through larger-than-life struggles have a different mind-set on family, career and happiness. One member of our team spent 5 years of her childhood in a refugee camp in Hong Kong. After that experience, every day to her is a wonderful day. It was not consciously planned but my team is 100% diversified with all members being either a minority or a double minority and we are fluent in 7 different languages. The successes that I have had are due largely in part by surrounding myself with people of strong character that was molded through adversity.”
Thien-Hien (Sam) Nguyen immigrated to the United States from central Vietnam with her family. She and her family fled their home country due to significant poverty caused by the Vietnam War. Her family’s journey to America included five years in a Hong Kong refugee camp. Because of intervention by the United States, Sam was eventually airlifted to Atlanta at the age of fourteen. When Sam arrived she did not speak English, but persevered working her way through high school and college while being the sole financial support for her family of eight. Armed with the ability to speak several languages, including Cantonese, and a survival instinct, she adapted to life in the United States. Through pure determination, she obtained a double major in Finance and Accounting from Georgia State University.
Sam joined Merrill Lynch in 2012 and quickly became a Junior Partner with Baker & Associates. As a Financial Advisor, she is responsible for the team’s portfolio analysis. Sam is responsible for developing and monitoring investment strategies to maximize returns consistent with the portfolio’s risk parameters. She analyzes the performance of investments in client portfolios and makes suitable recommendations through meaningful discussions.
Sam currently resides with her husband Khoi in Lawrencville, Georgia, living close to her family. She regularly attends temple and enjoys gardening as her hobby.
Miriam Falaki is a first-generation American from Morocco and has had the unique opportunity to travel the world both personally and professionally. Miriam is fluent in several languages including her homeland Arabic.
After receiving a double major degree in International Business and French from Georgia State University and working in Europe and the Middle East, Miriam joined Merrill Lynch in 2012. Her education, international business exposure and work ethic have allowed her to become a Junior Partner with Baker & Associates. As a Financial Advisor on the team, she manages the team’s business development initiatives. Miriam monitors and analyzes financial issues related to the business and develops strategic alliances between internal and external associates. By monitoring strategic business growth, she ensures that clients receive proactive outreach and reviews.
Miriam is community-minded as she is an active volunteer with Culture Connect, a nonprofit organization that focuses on cultural assimilation and inclusion. During her spare time, she enjoys traveling abroad and learning new foreign languages. She is very close to her relatives, their cultural traditions and strong family values.