Bonnie Baker, wife of Northark founding President Bill Baker, to receive Pioneer Impact Award
Posted Date: 3/19/24

Bonnie Baker, wife of the late Bill Baker, the founding president of North Arkansas College will receive the 2024 Pioneer Impact award presented by the Northark Foundation. This award was established in 2018 to recognize individuals for their service to Northark and the community.

She will be honored during the Foundation’s annual Evening on the Plaza dinner on Thursday, April 18, 2024, at 6:30 p.m. in the Signature Bank Community Room. The dinner will be preceded by a reception at 6:00 p.m. in the atrium. The special event celebrates the 50th Anniversary of North Arkansas College which was founded in 1974. 

Upon receiving the news of her selection, Bonnie shared “I was shocked, humbled and greatly appreciative. The love of our time with the new college and the whole first family of employees came flooding back to me. The community college concept was new and exciting because it answered a need in our area.”

As the college celebrates its 50th Anniversary, Bonnie is overjoyed to have been a part of it. “NACC means the world to me. I got to be a part of my husband’s greatest joy and accomplishment beyond his family. It was so fulfilling to be by his side. Being supportive of him in any way I could was what I enjoyed.”

Bonnie noted how Congressman Hammerschmidt and other leaders in the community worked tirelessly to pass the tax that allowed NACC to be established. As Northark grew, it eventually seeded two other colleges: NACC classes were held in a church in Mountain Home which became Arkansas State University Mountain Home. A store front in Rogers became Northwest Arkansas Community College, the largest two-year college in the state. “I have always been very proud of that accomplishment,” Bonnie says.
Dr. Baker had a knack for making friends wherever he went because of his love of his fellow man. Bonnie said his personal mantra was “Work hard. Love everybody. Be happy.” His last words in church when he was able to come was “Love everybody and make sure they know it.” 

Bonnie has her own talents. She is a wonderful host and cook who complimented Bill’s outgoing personality. She treats everyone like a family member. For many years, Bonnie hosted a Christmas reception for the community. In the early years it was at her home in Harrison, AR. When the JPH Conference Center was built, the reception moved there. Bonnie started baking cookies, candy and breads three months in advance to prepare for the popular event. She recalled with a laugh; “I got a big kick when my sister, Kattie, made peanut brittle every year. It was very thin, crispy and crunchy and it came together quickly. It took about ¼ of the time it took make to make my goodies. Everybody loved her peanut brittle! The next year as guests arrived, they were on the lookout for a particular treat. Bonnie thought to herself “I spent all these months making cookies, candy and bread - and some people came in the door asking, “Where’s that peanut brittle?” 
Dr. Baker retired in 2000. For Bonnie, the highlight of Bill’s retirement party was a performance of The Snooze Brothers, a parody on The Blues Brothers, an 80’s musical action-comedy film. The Snooze Brothers consisted of two former Vice Presidents who later served as Interim Presidents, Dr. Jim Stockton and Don Sugg. “It just stood out from everything else. I would give anything to see that again! 
Bonnie now enjoys her family and friends and is very happy to see how Northark has grown with all the new campus additions, sports and clubs, and academic programs that allow students to obtain an education close to home. Bill and Bonnie have three children: Billy Bert Baker, II, Yosef, and Julia Baker Howry (Randy). She enjoys four grandchildren: Emily Baker, William Bert Baker III (Kellie), Baker Howry, Daniel Howry and two great grandchildren: Bryce & Beckett Howry.

Cathy Brandt will receive the 2024 Ozark Ambassador award. NARMC Chief Nursing Officer, Donna Boehm will be presented with the 2024 North Arkansas College Distinguished Alumna award.

Evening on the Plaza tickets are $50 each or $250 for a table of six and can be purchased online at or by calling Micki Somers at (870) 391-3242. Please RSVP by April 8, 2024.

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