Merced County puts donation to work for library

Merced County didn't waste any time spending some of the donation it got from Robert Baxter, a Merced native who willed thousands of dollars to the county.

Last week, the Board of Supervisors approved a budget transfer of $11,611 to repair the parking lot at the main branch of the Merced County Library and install a new disabled access door on the building to comply with Americans With Disabilities Act standards.

All the money came from the donation by Baxter, who left several sizable contributions in his will, including $50,000 for the Merced County Library, $50,000 for the Merced County Historical Society, $50,000 for the Merced College Foundation and $250,000 for Stanford University. The county accepted the donation in November.

Baxter, 69, was born and raised in Merced County and held a doctorate in classics from Stanford University, according to an Aug. 27 obituary in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

He taught at Smith College in Massachusetts for about 10 years.

In 1979, he became the performing arts critic for the Courier-Post newspaper in Cherry Hill, N.J. He retired in 2008 and taught opera history and the history of singers at the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia.

Baxter died of pancreatic cancer Aug. 25, 2010. His attorney said Baxter didn't have any children -- only distant family -- and he wanted to give back to his roots with the donation to the county.

District 4 Supervisor Deidre Kelsey said the library's retrofit has been needed for a long time.

"This is a good opportunity to do it," she said. "It'll benefit a lot of people because it's the main library and we serve a lot of people there."

Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or mnorth@mercedsunstar.com.