Dr. Jean M. Baker
Tucson psychologist, author and gay rights advocate, died on August 11, 2013 at age 86, after several years with Parkinson's disease. She died in Philadelphia, where she had moved in 2011 to be near her older son Andy. Dr. Baker was born in Phoenix, the oldest of four children of Thomas and Mabel Ridgeway, on February 12, 1927. She attended Phoenix Community College, later transferring to the University of Arizona, where she graduated with a degree in Psychology in 1948. She married Andrew Jackson Baker III ("Jack") in 1949. She taught elementary school for four years, until the birth of her first son in 1957. After her second son was born in 1961, she returned to school, and received an M.A. and then in 1970 a Ph.D. in Psychology at the University of Arizona. Dr. Baker worked in private practice, seeing individual patients, and with a group of colleagues on larger research projects. These projects included state and national work on child abuse and bilingual education. She worked as a consultant to the State of Arizona on child neglect and abuse issues for many years, into her early 80's. When her younger son, Gary became ill with HIV, and then died in 1989, Dr. Baker became intensely engaged with gay rights and education advocacy. Over the subsequent years, she served on the Board of Directors of the Tucson AIDS Project (TAP) (which later merged with other AIDS service organizations to form the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation) and on the Board of Directors of Wingspan, Southern Arizona's LGBT Community Center. She founded and chaired the Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Issues Committee of the Arizona Psychological Association, and was a member of City of Tucson's Commission of LGBT Issues. She made numerous presentations at professional conferences, school training workshops and elsewhere. During this period, she also published two books meant to further awareness and knowledge around gay youth issues. Her first book, "Family Secrets: A Mother's Story," published in 1998, is a first-person account focused on the loss of her younger son. Her second book, "How Homophobia Hurts Children," published in 2002, combines additional insight from her personal experiences and reports from LGBT youth themselves with scholarly research, and was directed at both parents and educators. Dr. Baker's work and advocacy were widely recognized. She received awards from the Arizona Psychological Association (of which she was a Past President), the Arizona Human Rights Fund, the YWCA (Women on the Move), the Women's Foundation of Southern Arizona as an "Everyday Hero", Wingspan (Godat Award), the Volunteer Center of Southern Arizona, and the City of Tucson. Dr. Baker is survived by her older son Andrew (Andy) and son-in-law Alex Stadler (Philadelphia), beloved sister and brother-in-law June and Leonard Anderson (Phoenix), nieces, nephews, cousins, professional colleagues, and many friends in Tucson, Philadelphia and elsewhere. She was predeceased by her mother, father, husband Jack, brothers Charles and Tom Ridgeway, and younger son Gary. Services will be arranged in Tucson this winter. Contributions may be made in her name to Wingspan (430 East 7th Street, Tucson, Arizona 85705) or to the Gary Thomas Baker Scholarship Fund of Columbia University (from which her son Gary graduated): Columbia University Gift Systems, MC 4520, 622 W. 113th Street, New York, NY 10025.