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Bill Baker

Bill Baker

Structural engineer | Alumni Achievement Award | Class of 1980

Forty-plus years later, a line a favorite professor often used still sticks with Bill Baker.

“I remember sitting in Professor Narbey Khachaturian’s office and talking about structures and design,” says one of two recipients of the UI’s 2017 Alumni Achievement Award. “He used to say ‘theory is practical,’ and he was completely right. When I design something that is new or unique, I have to go back to theory.”

Baker has made a living of designing structures new and unique during his time at Chicago architectural/engineering firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Exhibit A: Dubai’s 2,717-foot-tall Burj Khalifa, which since 2008 has held the title that belonged to Chicago's Sears Tower for a quarter-century — the world’s tallest building.

In his line of work, Baker has received about every honor there is — the Fritz Leonhardt Preis, the Gustav Magnel Gold Medal and the Fazlur Rahman Khan Medal, to name a few.

His list of impactful UI professors is even lengthier. Asked to choose one, he says, “I came up with almost a dozen names with no effort. I could also go on and on about Professors Sozen, Hall, Pecknold, Gamble, Walker, Stallmeyer, Carlson, Gurfinkel, Schnobrich, Munse ... truly excellent engineers and educators.”