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Her Last Wishes

Mary Carole Sandorf Baker

Carole Baker
Mary Carole Sandorf Baker had cancer and knew that she was dying. She also knew exactly what she wanted to accomplish with her estate.

Carole had initially set up her trust in 2002, but in the months leading up to her death in 2018, amid cancer treatments, she made sure to bequeath her formidable estate to those things she cared about most—medical research, Make a Wish Foundation, Gary Sinise Foundation, Guide Dogs for the Blind, animal shelters and horse sanctuaries, maintenance of her local riding trails, her local public library, and the University of Wyoming.

She left specific directions for the care of her horse Chance and her dog Dozer, along with a substantial sum for their lifetime care. She opened and funded nineteen 529 college savings plans for her friends’ grandchildren. Carole had no children herself.

Carole set up two UW endowments intended to work together—the Mary Carole Sandorf Baker Student Excellence Fund in Art, Design, and Entrepreneurship and the Mary Carole Sandorf Baker Student Excellence Fund in Engineering, Design and Entrepreneurship. She also gave a gift, the Mary Carole Sandorf Baker Memorial Bench Fund, to sponsor a bench located in front of Knight Hall, which was her dorm when she was at UW in the 1960s.

Carole wanted to help students to realize their creative dreams and to emphasize the connections among art, engineering, and entrepreneurship. For example, UW’s new Center for Design Thinking brings together these disciplines and encourages design thinking, “a methodology that provides a solution-based approach to solving complex problems and creating desired outcomes that benefit the end user.”

That’s not all she gave to her alma mater. A talented sculptor who worked in bronzes, Carole bequeathed her work Prairie Farewell to UW, which depicts a kneeling woman reading a book. It will rest on a pedestal in the Alma Doke McMurry Reading Room in Coe Library. Its location has a view of her bench across the street.

Originally from Detroit, Michigan, Carole came to UW and earned her bachelor’s in art and journalism. She said, “In the 60s, my advisor told me to ‘forget art, have kids, just settle down.’” She did not take their advice and spent her life proving them wrong. She and her husband Willis owned an innovative and successful medical paper products company in California and then New Mexico. “I had 50 employees,” she said. Art was indeed Carole’s passion. Upon graduation, she taught art. She also studied at the Taos Art School in New Mexico and the Scottsdale Art School in Arizona. Viewers could tell she loved art from her amazing work. She was an accomplished sculpture artist, winning international awards for her gifted and playful creation of animal bronzes.

Carole won first place at Equine Art 2003 for her sculpture Flashdancer. Horses were a particular favorite of hers—her knowledge of equine anatomy came not just from academic theory but from years of grooming and caring for her beloved Tennessee walking horses. Her lifelike bronzes of animals show personality and lifelike rendering. She liked to put humor in their titles and actions.

One of her sculptures, which one reviewer called “full of fun,” shows three life-sized pygmy goats climbing rocks. Its name Scape Goats is a double entendre. Likewise, her sculpture Spring Break of two horses on Wyoming sandstone-like pedestals are playfully rearing and eyeing each other.

She told one reviewer, “I have been dedicating some of my sculpture to my favorite charities. Currently, I am donating eight sets of doberman bookends to Doberman Rescue NM, Inc. I’m quite excited to see them cast.”

Carole passed away in July 2018. In one of her final emails, she wrote, “I’ve had a wonderful life. Please, let’s help UW.”

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