Hugh P. Baker served as President during most of the existence of Massachusetts State College. The institution changed its name from the Massachusetts Agricultural College in 1931, two years before Baker was appointed president. After he left office in 1947, the college became the University of Massachusetts.
The primary goals of his presidency were building improved housing and classroom facilities for students and expanding the liberal arts curriculum. Special accomplishments during his tenure included the introduction of the AB degree in 1938, the development of a women's athletic field, and the completion of five dormitory buildings that provided space for all first year (male) students to live on campus. Baker also oversaw the building of Goodell Library, which enabled books to be relocated from the Old Chapel, and a near doubling of student enrollment. In 1946, new departments in geology and zoology were founded. Further, chapel services were reorganized to be voluntary, and a weekly convocation was initiated. Baker also founded popular annual conferences on recreation and country life.
Baker began his academic career in forestry, working as a professor and later dean of the College of Forestry at Syracuse University. He remained there until 1920, when he resigned to become executive secretary of the American Paper and Pulp Association. Throughout the 1920s, Baker was heavily involved in the forestry industry, holding no academic appointments. Baker returned to academic life in 1930, when he resumed the deanship at the New York State School of Forestry. A few years later, he became President of Massachusetts Agricultural College.