Founder: Colonel Edwin A. Baker

Edwin A. Baker (1893-1968), affectionately known as "The Colonel", was one of the key founders of CNIB, and served as its managing director from 1920 until 1962.

Born on a farm near Kingston, Ont., Baker grew up where his United Empire Loyalist forefathers had settled. He attended public school and high school nearby and went on to Queen's University to study engineering. He obtained his bachelor of science degree as an electrical engineer in 1914, just in time to enlist with the Sixth Field Company, Canadian Engineers, and serve in World War I. In 1915, he was wounded at Mount Kemmel, France, and lost the sight in both his eyes.

After undergoing rehabilitation at St. Dunstan's home in England, Baker returned to Canada in 1916 to rebuild his life as a person living with vision loss. It was a considerable challenge, as there were few social services available at the time, and people with vision loss tended to be dependent on their families.

Undaunted, Baker obtained a position at the Ontario Hydro-Electric Power Commission. In his spare time, he joined the board of the Canadian Free Library for the Blind as a volunteer and, along with six other library volunteers, founded CNIB in 1918. He served as vice president of its first National Council, oversaw the After Care and Training program for Canadian servicemen who had been blinded in the war, and in 1920, he became CNIB's general secretary.
From a staff of three and a handful of volunteers, Baker built the organization to include more than 50 offices from coast to coast. He sponsored ophthalmic surveys and medical aid for native Canadians in the far north; helped organize the first mass survey of school children in Toronto, which led to the establishment of classes for people with vision loss; and oversaw the first national survey of the incidence and causes of vision loss in Canada.
Baker's interests extended far beyond his own organization. He served as president of the World Council for the Welfare of the Blind (now known as the World Blind Union) for three terms, and was, for many years, the only lay member of the Canadian Ophthalmological Society. He was a member of the National Advisory Council on the Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons for 10 years and was involved in the formation of the Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind in London, England. As a veteran of World War I, Baker continued to actively participate in military and veterans' affairs long after the war ended. He was honorary chairman of the National Council of Veterans Associations in Canada; honorary president of the War Pensioners of Canada; a life member of the Canadian Legion and the Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans in Canada; and honorary dominion president of the Canadian Corps Association. He was also vice president and later secretary of the Sir Arthur Pearson Association of War Blinded.

In 1966, he was presented with the World Veterans' Federation Trophy in recognition of distinguished service for the disabled before being appointed Companion of the Order of Canada for outstanding merit of the highest degree the next year.

Edwin A. Baker passed away on April 7, 1968.