Sandrine Baker P’96, a beloved member of our school community, who served for 26 years as the receptionist in the Admissions Office, passed away on July 2, 2021, at Saint Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury, according to her son, Doug Baker ’96, a member of the U.S. Marine Corps. “She always loved working at The Gunnery,” he said.
According to her obituary, Baker was born in New York City on April 10, 1947. As a girl and young woman, she enjoyed her high school years in Mexico and many holidays in the south of France with family. After earning her associate’s degree in business management, she worked as a flight attendant for Eastern Airlines for 15 years. After retiring from the airline, she became a teacher in New Milford and school lunch coordinator for Booth Free School in Roxbury. She joined what was then The Gunnery in 1989, working first in the bookstore and then, a few years later, as the receptionist in the Admissions Office. Her office was in Mrs. Bourne’s gardening room, at the entrance of Bourne Hall.
“For those who did not have the privilege of knowing and working with Sandrine, she was the consummate lady,” Head of School Peter Becker said. “She was a wonderful first impression for anyone calling or visiting the school – a paragon of warmth and respect with impeccable standards and a deep love for the school and the people who comprise it – students, faculty, staff as well as alumni and prospective families. Sandrine – known forever as ‘Mrs. Baker,’ even to most alumni who knew her – was proud of the school and her family and I appreciated getting the latest update from her about Doug '96. I loved calling the main number from the road and having Sandrine catch me up on school goings-on before she connected me to whoever I was calling.”
When she retired in 2015, the Class of 1996 dedicated a magnolia tree in her honor during Alumni Weekend. It blossoms every spring, just off the path to the College Counseling Office in Bourne Hall, distinguished by the plaque at its base with her name on it.
"Her gracious, welcoming presence, her excellent communication skills, her quick responses to requests for directions, reservations, logistics and advice were appreciated by families, students, faculty, and administrators alike," recalled former Head of School Susie Graham H'12. "My favorite memory of Sandrine is framed by her effervescence and enthusiasm on commencement morning in the Bourne Reading Room as she handed a long-stemmed red rose to each senior girl in her white dress before the class gathered for their formal picture in the garden. Sandrine was proud of every student, delighted by the celebratory spirit of the day and spellbound by the pageantry of The Gunnery’s commencement procession and ceremony. 'This is my favorite day of the year,' she reminded me every year.”
“Sandrine was an ideal receptionist for a busy boarding school because she spoke English, French, and Spanish fluently and could be polite in several others, including German, Japanese, Greek and Russian,” the late Paula Krimsky, wrote in the Bulletin in 2015 upon Baker’s retirement. Some of her most memorable experiences at the school included serving as a chaperone on a trip to Russia, and on a trip to Egypt with the crew team in 1996. She was quick to volunteer to help students, whether they were in need of a shopping trip to purchase a graduation gown, a tutoring session or a home-cooked meal, Krimsky said, noting that Baker’s desk in Admissions was adorned with photos from the weddings, college graduations and children of the many alumni who kept in touch with her.
“Sandrine was a big part of many students’ experience at the school,” recalled Jessica Ullram Fletcher ’96, the Business Office Assistant at The Frederick Gunn School, who has remained close to the Baker family. “She was like a mother to all, from sewing patches on blazers to making homemade meals for kids who were far away from home and needed that comfort – not to mention learning Chinese, among the three other languages she spoke fluently, so she could communicate with kids in their own language.”
Trustee Stephen Baird '68 described Sandrine as a beloved person on campus. "She was a constant ray of sunshine as she welcomed students, faculty, parents, candidates and their families, alumni and trustees," he said. "Sandrine was such a positive person, always helping others and always raising their spirits. She loved her son, Doug, and was always telling stories about his travels in the military. My most vivid memory was Sandrine talking about when Doug and Sam got married at school and showing us all the photos."
“‘Shine’ was a warm, kind and thoughtful woman who never met a stranger,” her obituary said. “Renowned as a terrific cook and consummate hostess, Sandrine lived for her family and friends and was always there to lend a hand or an ear to those in need. Becoming a grandmother was her greatest joy. Known as ‘Mimi’ to her granddaughter and grandson, she looked forward eagerly to the birth of her third grandchild later this year.”
Sandrine Baker is survived by her husband, James Baker, son, Douglas Baker, daughter-in-law, Sam, sister, Reine-Marie Vergnes, and her grandchildren, Ruby and Jack Baker.