Our network of students, faculty and alumni is inclusive, diverse and dedicated to the the three pillars on which Baker is built: entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation.


The Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity & Innovation is Lehigh University's premier organization dedicated to the advancement of entrepreneurial education for the entire University community. In the course of an average year, our programming reaches thousands of students and alumni from South Mountain to Silicon Valley. 

Dororthy and Dexter Baker
Dexter and Carol Baker
Innovate, Celebrate


As a part-time student in Lehigh University’s MBA program in 1957, Dexter Baker was challenged by one of his professors to think outside the box when crafting his thesis. Baker used the opportunity to create a plan for his employer, the gas and chemical supplier Air Products, to enter the overseas market. A few months and a degree later, Mr. Baker and his family were aboard the Queen Mary en route to London, where he would establish the company’s first international division. Mr. Baker, who joined Air Products in 1952, was chairman of the board and CEO of the Allentown-based company when he retired in 1992. 

In 2010, Mr. Baker empowered current and future Lehigh students in all disciplines to spark their creativity and challenge the status quo, through the establishment of the Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity & Innovation.


“Asa Packer was an entrepreneur who conceived a new transportation service and moved products from the Lehigh Valley all over the world,” Mr. Baker said of Lehigh's founder. “I want Lehigh graduates to be vaccinated with the spirit of Asa Packer and chart their own course so they don’t have to doggedly follow in the footsteps of others, but can be the lead dog themselves. I believe in it. I am a product of it.”

Mr. Baker earned his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering at Lehigh in 1950 and his MBA in 1957. In 1981, Lehigh awarded him an honorary doctorate of engineering degree. 


Mr. Baker served as a Trustee Emeritus of the Lehigh University Board of Trustees and as chairman of visiting committees for mechanical engineering, chemical engineering and music. Along with his wife, Dorothy, he also established the Dexter F. and Dorothy H. Baker Gifted Arts Scholarship Program for students in the performing arts. The Bakers also served as co-chairs of the $33 million capital campaign for the Zoellner Arts Center and made a generous contribution to name Baker Hall. 


Dexter Baker passed away on Nov. 1, 2012. In 2014, the Dexter F. and Dorothy H. Baker Foundation gave a $5 million gift to Lehigh to establish a fund to support Baker Institute initiatives in perpetuity.



The Farrington Award for Outstanding Commitment to Entrepreneurship at Lehigh is awarded annually to a member of the Lehigh community who has made entrepreneurship education at Lehigh their priority and has greatly impacted the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Click here to view our past winners. 



The members of our Advisory Council represent hundreds of years of combined experience in a wide variety of businesses. We rely on them heavily for counsel, inspiration and wisdom. We are grateful for the time and devotion they offer to the Baker Institute and to the University community in general.

Carol Baker

Carol is a trustee of the Dexter F. and Dorothy H. Baker Foundation, daughter of Dexter Baker, the visionary behind the Baker Institute, and an independent brand strategist. She works with consumer products and non-profits to align their vision to a brand platform and communication strategy. As a Baker Foundation trustee, her focus area has been on entrepreneurship and arts organizations; finding alliances with non-profits that support individuals in bringing their creativity forward. Carol became actively involved with the Baker Institute during its first year of existence, helping to take the many existing programs, new ideas and initiatives and synthesize them into a brand strategy that had internal and external resonance. Carol loves to see ideas come to form.

Alita Friedman

A consummate entrepreneur, as Principal and Chief Brand Officer for the brand UglyDoll, Alita spearheaded sales for UGLYDOLL® and created a powerful consumer brand that has skyrocketed to a worldwide evergreen property and is soon to be an animated feature film. Alita’s energy is boundless as she has officiated over one hundred trade show booths worldwide, including Toy Fairs, International Licensing Fairs, Gift Shows, Comic Conventions, and College & Museum Shows. She organized exhibitions with Benetton in Hong Kong, the Louvre in Paris, and has launched international co-branded programs with some of the most famous character brands and celebrities on the planet. Alita has appeared on NBC’s TODAY numerous times and has graced the cover of the LEHIGH Alumni Magazine. She was awarded the Wonder Woman of Toys, Licensing and Entertainment in 2013 and was the 2015 recipient of the President Farrington Award for her outstanding commitment to entrepreneurship at Lehigh. Alita is a hockey mom with two sons playing at Lehigh, Stephen (’17) and Alec (’19). Alita is a native of PA and earned a B.S. in Business and Economics (Accounting) from Lehigh. Hard to imagine Alita began her career as a CPA and auditor with the former Arthur Andersen! In 2014, Alita formed her own branding and licensing company, Alita’s Brand Bar, to create new brands and generate creative revenue streams for existing brands. Alita will serve as the lead facilitator for LehighSiliconValley2018. 

Ben Gucciardi

Ben founded Soccer Without Borders while earning a Masters degree in Global Educational Leadership from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA in 2006. An undergraduate of Lehigh as well, Ben has also worked as a consultant for leading sports based youth-development organizations in the US, Europe, Zambia and South Africa, including Team-Up For Youth, Women Win, and Beyond Sport Inc. Soccer Without Borders runs community-led, year-round youth development programs in under-served areas in the USA and abroad. We provide programming to socially, politically, and economically marginalized youth who are systematically excluded from sports-based and extracurricular activities. Soccer provides these youth with an avenue for positive engagement, a platform for personal growth, and a toolkit for a brighter future.

Michael Levin

Michael Levin (Lehigh BSME ‘87), is the Co-Founder and CEO of Vericred, an innovative
company simplifying the exchange of health insurance and employee benefit data between carriers and technology companies. Based in New York City, venture capital backed Vericred boasts a startup culture with 40 diverse employees, tackling incredibly complex data problems. The company has cultivated several accolades, including being named a Top Innovator on the Global InsurTech 100 list, consecutively in 2018 and 2019.
Mike identified the problem that Vericred was founded to solve while he served as Chief
Operating Officer for Affiliates Risk Management Services (ARMS), an insurance, risk
management and e-learning services provider for healthcare professionals.
Prior to ARMS, Mike disrupted the color printer supply business with the first company he
founded, Media Sciences. Media Sciences created a new market category and contributed
many firsts to the printer supply market including the first free color printer program.
After a decade of growing the company to a peak NASDAQ market cap of $80 million the
company was split in two and sold to Xerox and Katun, a private equity owned printer and
copier parts and supply business. Eager to foster entrepreneurial pursuits at Lehigh, in 2008 Mike endowed the Michael W. Levin ‘87 Advanced Technology Award which provides grants to undergraduate engineering students for the development of their entrepreneurial projects. Mike continues to be active in the Lehigh community including guest lecturing. Mike resides in Saddle River, New Jersey with his wife Nancy. They have four sons, one of whom is Lehigh IBE 2020.

Jim Peters

Jim Peters most recently founded Skyward Health (www.skywardhealth.com), a boutique, strategic innovation advisory company with a healthcare and technology focus.  Prior to Skyward, Mr. Peters was a 12-year senior executive at Geisinger Health System, where he was a driving force for entrepreneurship and innovation within the leadership team that established Geisinger's national reputation for healthcare innovation. As Chief Executive Officer of Geisinger Medical Management Corporation, Geisinger's for-profit enterprise, Mr. Peters built and held overall P&L responsibility for its large portfolio of entrepreneurial businesses, Geisinger Ventures, and led Geisinger’s strategic corporate development and negotiation functions. Prior to Geisinger, Mr. Peters served as Principal at Updata Venture Partners, a $450M venture capital firm with a focus on growth stage software and health IT companies. Earlier in his career, Mr. Peters founded and grew a successful New York City-based software services firm that serviced and sold into the medical technology sector. Mr. Peters spent the first four years of his career as a senior consultant at Andersen Consulting in New York. In addition to nearly 25 years of executive leadership, venture investment, business building, health IT, and provider-payer-patient-manufacturer partnership experience, Mr. Peters brings a strong track record of developing and scaling a culture of innovation within large complex enterprises. Mr. Peters has an extensive history of advising complex enterprises on growth innovation strategies, and speaking nationally on topics related to healthcare transformation and scaling new ventures. He serves as an Independent Director of NxStage Medical, Inc. (NASDAQ: NXTM), and in leadership roles on numerous other fiduciary and advisory Boards, including Special Olympics of Pennsylvania; Atrius Health System Ventures Committee; Covance SAB (NYSE: LH); Relativity School of Film, Media and the Performing Arts; and Ben Franklin Technology Partners. Since 2002 he serves as Adjunct Lecturer at Lehigh University's College of Business and Economics, is a Guest Lecturer for the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and is an active Down Syndrome and Parkinson's disease advocate. Peters received Phi Beta Kappa honors while earning his BA from Lehigh University; he earned an MBA in Finance and Venture Capital from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania; he completed continuing professional education in Healthcare Strategy at the Harvard School of Public Health; and is an alumnus of the VC Institute of the National Venture Capital Association. 

Brent Rosenthal

Brent D. Rosenthal is the Founder of Mountain Hawk Capital Partners, LLC, an investment fund focused on small and micro-cap equities in the technology media telecom (TMT) and food industries. Mr. Rosenthal also serves as chairman of the board of directors of Comscore and RiceBran Technologies. Previously, Mr. Rosenthal was a partner in affiliates of W.R. Huff Asset Management, where he worked from 2002 through 2016. Mr. Rosenthal played a key role in the firm’s TMT and food investment activities. Mr. Rosenthal also served on the board of directors of Rentrak from 2008 through 2016, including as non-executive chairman of the board from 2011 through 2016. From 2006 through 2012, he served as an adviser to and observer of the board of directors of Virgin Media and as a consultant to the company, providing turnaround and crisis-management services, as well as operational and financial analysis and recommendations. From 2007 through 2010, he served as an adviser to the executive management of Time Warner Cable. In 2016, Mr. Rosenthal was named a Multichannel News “Money All-Star,” a top 10 media executive in private equity, investment banking and advisory. In 2009, he was included in Multichannel News' annual "40 Under 40" list for influencing the future of cable and telecommunications. Earlier in his career, Mr. Rosenthal was director of mergers and acquisitions for RSL Communications Ltd. and served emerging media companies for Deloitte & Touche LLP. Mr. Rosenthal is an inactive Certified Public Accountant. Mr. Rosenthal earned his B.S. from Lehigh University and MBA from the S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University.

Perry Jobe Smith

A lifelong entrepreneur and avid learner, Perry Smith has created, operated and scaled a wide variety of successful hospitality and retail businesses including Polly Esther’s and Culture Club entertainment venues, as well as multiple retail locations of Right On Futon in Chicago, IL. Most recently he founded, built and expanded the Matchbox Food Group in Washington, DC, Maryland, Virginia and California. While hospitality is in his DNA,  he has always focused on the people and performance elements of his businesses, taking great pleasure in growing these entities into 650+ person organizations. This year, with USAF Brigadier General John E. Michel (RET),  Smith announced the creation of The Avalon Institute, a unique management coaching and consulting firm that incorporates forward thinking neuroleadership tools and strategies to determine an individual’s Best Performance Assets and enhance their leadership skills. Smith's Avalon team includes a dynamic group of individuals consisting of entrepreneurs, business leaders, professional athletes, current and retired military officers and educators. In addition, Smith continues to mentor, assist and invest in small business start-ups and has a particularly strong interest in developing Millennial leadership strategies, strategic coaching and elite performance for clients in the DOD and professional athletics. 

Deborah Zajac

Deborah Zajac is Venture Partner, Touchdown Ventures, investing in startups across stage and sector on behalf of corporations, having previously served as Senior Director at GE Ventures.  She also serves as Executive-In-Residence at Columbia University’s Tech Ventures, advising on spinout startups from research, continuing her work from GE’s labs. Deborah has advised, scaled, turned around and partnered with businesses for nearly 20 years in more than 25 countries in technology, healthcare, energy, aerospace, industrials and consumer solutions while at Touchdown Ventures, GE Ventures, GE, SaaS start-up Celarix.com and Andersen [Consulting]. Deborah advises startups through programs like Techstars and Blackstone Launchpad.  Deborah earned her MBA in Finance and Entrepreneurship from NYU Stern following her BS and BA from Lehigh University, where she also served for two terms as Trustee.

Scott A. Belair (Emeritus)

Since 1989, Scott A. Belair has been a Principal at The ZAC Group, performing corporate financial advisory services. Mr. Belair served as President of Balfour Maclaine Corporation, a commodities trading company. He was a Principal at Morgan Stanley and Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of the international offices and subsidiaries at Goldman Sachs. He served as Managing Director of Drexel Burnham Lambert Incorporated. Mr. Belair co-founded Urban Outfitters Inc., a public retailer and wholesaler operating under the brand names Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, and Free People in 1970 and has been a director since its incorporation in 1994. He has been an active member of the Lehigh Entrepreneurs Network since it was organized in 2005 and is a member of Dean Brown’s Advisory Council.

Bill Kirsch (Emeritus)

Mr. Kirsch is the Co-Founder/Managing Director of Costella Kirsch. Costella Kirsch is a high-profile Silicon Valley structured debt firm having provided $300MM to more than 200 emerging technology companies. Previously, Bill Kirsch managed the western region for the financing arm of telecom equipment provider, Rolm Corporation, where he was top volume producer. He also worked in the lease underwriting division of GATX Capital Corp, where he negotiated large, tax-oriented equipment financings. Bill demonstrated his community spirit by spearheading efforts to create pedestrian/bicycle access in West Menlo Park. He was also instrumental in transforming the central business district into a local retail corridor. Active in youth sports during his children’s primary and middle school years as both coach and coordinator, Bill served as Co-President of the Menlo Atherton High School Foundation. He is a regular in the on-the-road cycling circuit and swims for a local masters team. Bill graduated (with honors) from Lehigh University with a B.S. in Business & Economics and earned his M.B.A. from UCLA’s Anderson School.

Geoff Schneider (Emeritus)

Geoff Schneider founded Connecticut-based Cava Capital, an early stage venture capital firm that invests in young companies that leverage information technology to benefit businesses and consumers. Geoff has more than 20 years of operational and leadership experience with consumer marketing and media firms that leverage the Internet to grow and succeed. He played a key role in building more than 20 venture-funded startups into viable high-growth enterprises and has been instrumental in helping raise capital to fuel New York’s tech explosion. He maintains direct relationships with numerous investment banks, hedge funds, venture capital, and private equity firms and has developed a unique network of capital markets experts and business advisors. Owing to Geoff’s efforts, LehighSiliconValley2013 offers a new dimension in entrepreneurship learning for this year that we call the “New York Experience.” Geoff received a B.S. in Business & Economics from Lehigh University and an M.B.A. from George Washington University.

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