Though she was raised in Sioux Falls, S.D., the largest city in a four-state area, URI’s new first lady, Lynn Baker-Dooley, is no stranger to New England.
Baker-Dooley spent about 15 years in Massachusetts, first as a graduate student at the Andover Newton Seminary in the Boston area, then as a newlywed married to the young man she had met on a blind date a year before.
The young man was David Dooley, who had become one of the youngest new faculty members at Amherst College.
Lynn had graduated from Bethel College in Minnesota with her bachelor’s degree in English and political science and a minor in music. She went to the seminary and graduated from Andover Newton and became a pastor at multiple parishes in western Massachusetts.
“It’s a standing joke in my family, especially between my wife and me, that I’ve spent my whole life living with Baptist ministers, with a few years off, when I questioned the entire validity of the Christian faith,” said Dooley, whose father was a Baptist minister who made an influential impact on his life.
The Dooleys moved to Montana where she became an interim pastor in Helena for a year-and-a-half, followed by 10 years at First Baptist in Bozeman. The last two years she has served as chaplain for Bozeman Deaconess Hospital.
Baker-Dooley sees their move to Rhode Island as a perfect fit.
“I’m American Baptist, so it’s a perfect fit. I chose to be an American Baptist when I went to seminary because of religious liberty issues. Now, within the historical context of Roger Williams, I joke that it’s like coming home to the mother ship for me; to be back in an area that was founded on the principles of separation of church and state and religious liberty. These are principles that I believe so passionately about, so to come to Rhode Island, where we have lots of connections, is special for me,” said Baker-Dooley.
In Montana, Baker-Dooley said they were very involved with students and the university community. She was active in addressing homeless issues in Montana as part of a chapter of Habitat for Humanity and Family Promise, a program for parents with children who are homeless. She has also worked with battered women’s networks. She feels supporting these important organizations can be a way of doing ministry.
“I’ll wait until things settle down here and by then I imagine I’ll be very involved in other ways, professionally, and find opportunities to serve,” said Baker-Dooley.
“Sometimes you get the sense that the place has been prepared for you and that you’re walking into a situation that was just providential in every sense of the word. We’ve seen that in our lives before. When it was right, it was right, and when it was wrong, it was very wrong. This feels like the right place for us at this time and we’re excited to be here,” she said.
The Dooleys have two grown children, Christopher and Samantha, and a new dog they’ve named Rhody.