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Bakeman sisters leave SMC a $728,036 Gift

Bakeman sisters leave  SMC a $728,036 Gift

It is impossible to estimate the number of young lives impacted by two Cass County women who dedicated their lives to education.

Together, Maleta and Charlotte Bakeman spent nearly 100 years teaching children.

Maleta in one-room schools in the area and Charlotte in Muskegon Public Schools.

Their influence will continue to impact the lives of students through their generous gift to the Southwestern Michigan College Foundation.

The $728,036 gift will be placed in the Southwestern Michigan College Foundation Endowment Fund, where 80 percent of the interest will be used to provide scholarships for students in need. The principal will remain in perpetuity and continue to grow.

Dr. Fred L. Mathews, chairman of the SMC Board of Trustees, said, "This scholarship endowment, when combined with previous gifts by the sisters, totals over $1 million and constitutes the largest single scholarship fund for SMC students. Each year, it will provide a total of approximately $40,000 to students to help them pay for their college education. In addition to providing financial help to students, this fund will also serve as a memorial to the commitment that Charlotte and Maleta had to students and education."

Maleta M. Bakeman was born Feb. 5, 1897. She passed away on Jan. 20, 1983. She lived her entire life at the family farm on Middle Crossing Road in Silver Creek Township. Her sister, Charlotte M. Bakeman, was born July 10, 1900.

Following her retirement, Charlotte joined her sister at the family farm where she spent her summers. Charlotte passed away Oct. 7, 2005.

They were the daughters of William C. and Katharine Sommer Bakeman. Both Maleta and Charlotte graduated from Dowagiac High School, attended and graduated from Cass County Normal Preparatory School and Western Michigan University, then known as Western Michigan State Teachers College.

Maleta never missed a day in 51 years of teaching in one-room school houses in Cass and Berrien counties.

Her influence was felt by students who remember attending IXL School in Eau Claire, Beeson and Lake LaGrange Schools in LaGrange Township and at Cushing Corners and Cullinane Schools in Silver Creek Township.

She is perhaps best remembered for serving hot lunches to her students, which made it necessary to arrive at her school at 6 a.m. to begin preparations. She believed a hot breakfast not only served to improve attendance, but the mind as well.

Distinguished members of their profession, Charlotte and Maleta were life members of the Michigan Education Association and the National Education Association.

The Bakeman sisters were involved in their respective communities. Maleta helped organize the Dowagiac Business and Professional Women's Club, served as Silver Creek correspondent for the Dowagiac Daily News covering board meetings and in 1966 was awarded the "Gold Pin" for distinguished service as a 4-H leader of clubs in both Berrien and Cass Counties.

In 1930, Charlotte helped organize the Muskegon Teacher's Credit Union and served as its treasurer-manager during the early years. This state-chartered credit union still serves the needs of Muskegon public school teachers.