John A. Baird Jr., 97, of Bryn Mawr, a co-founding trustee of what is now Eastern University and a civic leader involved in many nonprofits, died in his sleep Wednesday, June 8, at Beaumont at Bryn Mawr.
Mr. Baird began his career working for his father-in-law, Charles S. Walton, a wealthy leather manufacturer, who in 1913 built the Radnor mansion known as Walmarthon. Mr. Walton had only three years to enjoy his home before dying in 1916, although his family lived there afterward.
The Waltons sold the property in 1950, and it became the campus and headquarters of Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, which later became Eastern College and then University.
"Jack," as Mr. Baird was called, joined Eastern College as treasurer in 1952. Almost immediately, the college president asked him to raise funds rather than manage them.
As the school's vice president, Mr. Baird had a career raising money for Eastern for 50 years. The capital campaigns and other fund-raising ventures he headed allowed the college to build dormitories, hire teachers, and award scholarships.
"When my father started, he didn't even know if the school would survive," said daughter Barbara Rogers. He had a knack for approaching prominent people, whom he told, "This is a school with a difference, and you need to be as interested in it as I am," she said.
Mr. Baird was as skilled a historian as he was a fund-raiser. Between 1972 and 1997, Mr. Baird wrote and published 10 works of nonfiction, including various histories of Eastern College.
Another book explored the history of his family, including the story of Union Army Gen. Absalom Baird, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for leading a charge on the Confederate earthworks at the Battle of Jonesborough in 1864 in Clayton County, Ga.
Mr. Baird also wrote histories of insurance companies and articles for various journals and publications.
He was a dedicated civic volunteer, active in the Athenaeum, Ludington Library, Pennsylvania Lupus Foundation, Volunteer Services for the Blind, Seamen's Church Institute, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Society of Colonial Wars, and the Military Order of Foreign Wars.
He was proud of being secretary-general for the Society of the Cincinnati, an organization for the descendants of officers who served in the Revolutionary War.
Typically, he helped the groups by starting or leading their fund-raising efforts. "He loved to raise money for causes he believed in," said another daughter, Suzanne Perot.
An Eagle Scout and director of the local chapter of the Boy Scouts, Mr. Baird was a trustee of the Shipley School for 28 years and its board chairman. He also started the school's development office.
A native of Honolulu, where his father was stationed in the Army, Mr. Baird graduated from the Lawrenceville School and Princeton University.
He was committed to his Christian faith and his family.
Mr. Baird was married to Virginia Walton, with whom he had three daughters. She died in 1983. A year later, he married Claire A. Austin, who died in 1998.
Besides his daughters, he is survived by three grandsons and six great-grandchildren. A third daughter, Linda Woodruff, died in 2010.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday, June 14, in the Music Room at Beaumont at Bryn Mawr, 601 N. Ithan Ave., Bryn Mawr. Interment will be private.
Donations may be made to Eastern University, Advancement Department, 1300 Eagle Rd., St. Davids, Pa. 19087, c/o James G. Rogers.