Tommy and Victoria Baker
“If it feels right in your heart and your gut, you should probably do it.” These words have served Tommy Barfield Baker since he was young. As a native of the Lowcountry, he attended Moultrie High School, and distinguished himself on the baseball fields and the dance floors.
Baker enlisted in the Marine Corps shortly after his high school graduation. Upon completing his military tours, Baker returned to Charleston and enrolled at the Citadel. While studying at the Citadel, Baker benefited from his experience in the Marine Corps through lessons of discipline, hard work, and dedication, and was able to successfully navigate his college years.
After leaving the Citadel in 1972, Baker ventured into the automotive dealership business, owning dealerships in several states. He met his wife, Victoria, in Birmingham, Alabama, where they courted for only ten weeks. Next year, the Bakers will celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary.
In 1988, Baker returned home and bought his first shop located in downtown Charleston on Morrison Drive. The same year, Baker was accepted into Harvard Business School’s Owner/President Management Program. Well-armed with an excellent education, Baker expanded his operation to become the Baker Automotive flagship dealership on Savannah Highway. Presently, the Baker Motor Company includes dealership of Mercedes-Benz, Maybach, Jaguar, Maserati, Porsche, Land Rover, Infinity, Smart Car, as well as a luxury pre-owned dealership.
On June 12, 1991, Baker was named the first Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the College of Charleston School of Business. As the Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Baker developed a senior-level Seminar in Entrepreneurship. For over 19 years, he has inspired his students to establish new businesses, expand existing businesses, and turn around failing businesses. “It’s interesting to watch these kids. They come in wondering how they’re going to pull something like this off. But then you see their confidence grow, it makes you proud,” says Baker.
In 1992, he joined the School of Business Board of Governors and was its first chair. As a member of the Board’s executive committee, Baker is instrumental in building relationships and recruiting members from the business community who strengthen the Board and provide service leadership for students and the School. In appreciation of his support and commitment to the School, in 1995, the College recognized Baker with an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters.
As testimony to his solid business practices, the Baker Motor Company has won the “Best of the Best" for Mercedes Benz for the last six years. It is the only dealership in the state to have won the "Best of the Best" award. In 2007, Baker Motor Company tied for the "#1 Mercedes Benz Dealership” in the U.S. In addition, his long-standing commitment to community service earned him the 2008 Outstanding Corporate Philanthropist by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Today, he continues to share his business success and entrepreneurial lessons with students as a Distinguished Entrepreneur-in-Residence. Baker is a valued member of the Board of Governors who bridges the School of Business needs and opportunities with business leaders in Charleston and beyond.