Skip to Content
Alumni profile

Commander of commerce

Marvin L. Baker ’51, SM ’53, ScD ’56
Courtesy of Marvin L. Baker ’51, SM ’53, ScD ’56

Marvin L. Baker ’51, SM ’53, ScD ’56, zigzagged Western Europe as a business consultant for 34 years, making it easier for international manufacturers of engineered equipment to trade with the United States. Recently, he successfully helped a Belgian company break into the US engineering and construction market after it had failed to do so for more than a decade. Not only did the company appreciate Baker’s efforts, but so did its home country.

By decree of King Philippe of Belgium, Baker was granted the title of Commander of the Order of the Belgian Crown—an honor two ranks above knighthood. Last December, Princess Astrid, sister of the king, bestowed the medal on him before a large crowd at the Greater Houston Partnership, a collaborative of Houston-based chambers of commerce. The Belgian ambassador to the US presented Baker to the group.

“I just can’t describe it. It was unbelievably wonderful that people appreciated what I had done,” Baker says. “It was beyond my expectations.”

The award honored Baker for 15 years of work with the Belgian company, which designs and manufactures heat-recovery steam generators that function as the heart of many power stations in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Ghana, and the United Kingdom.

Because the company had long failed to generate US interest, Baker’s remarks centered on overcoming resistance. “The big lesson of rejection is the need for greater creativity and perseverance,” he says.

Baker earned his three MIT degrees in chemical engineering. After working for 27 years at Shell Oil, where he led three units and was responsible for 800 employees, he launched a consulting firm in 1984. That Houston-based firm, High Technology Associates, generated business strategies for more than 135 Western Europe–based companies.

Baker says he learned at MIT to deal with challenges. “I loved MIT. Students were from all over the world,” he says. “I’d go to dinner and have a fascinating conversation with whomever I sat with. I’m still friendly with many of them.” In addition to attending MIT reunions, Baker and his MIT friends have unofficial reunions; most recently they met at Kiawah Island, off the coast of South Carolina.

He lives in Houston with his wife, Virginia, who sells real estate and paints watercolors. His son Theodore graduated from MIT in 1982 with a degree in electrical engineering; he died in 1990. His other son, Peter, is an outer space engineer. Baker enjoys investing in the stock market, though he says, “It’s demanding, time-consuming, and can drive you nuts.” 

Keep Reading

Most Popular

wet market selling fish
wet market selling fish

This scientist now believes covid started in Wuhan’s wet market. Here’s why.

How a veteran virologist found fresh evidence to back up the theory that covid jumped from animals to humans in a notorious Chinese market—rather than emerged from a lab leak.

light and shadow on floor
light and shadow on floor

How Facebook and Google fund global misinformation

The tech giants are paying millions of dollars to the operators of clickbait pages, bankrolling the deterioration of information ecosystems around the world.

masked travellers at Heathrow airport
masked travellers at Heathrow airport

We still don’t know enough about the omicron variant to panic

The variant has caused alarm and immediate border shutdowns—but we still don't know how it will respond to vaccines.

This new startup has built a record-breaking 256-qubit quantum computer

QuEra Computing, launched by physicists at Harvard and MIT, is trying a different quantum approach to tackle impossibly hard computational tasks.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.