You may have heard that Carol Bauer, and her husband, George Bauer, recently . That’s no petty sum.
So where did this heart of philanthropy come from? Patch spoke with Carol Bauer on her unusual introduction to and her current position as a hospital chaplain.
“[My husband and I] were both raised by parents who believed in giving back. Our families didn’t have a lot of things, but they had a lot of themselves. They always used to quote scripture: ‘In as much as you do things for others, you do things for God,’” said Bauer.
“We grew up in families that lived that and walked the walk. We both were given that sense of stewardship and that belief allowed us to do things that we were taught to do, things to help others,” she said.
Bauer has been involved with Norwalk Hospital for 33 years, beginning as a volunteer. Yet, oddly, Bauer’s introduction to volunteering at the hospital happened 3,600 miles away from New England. Bauer was sojourning in Roueil-Malmaison, a small town just a few miles west of Paris. She and a friend were walking through a park while Bauer’s friend recounted her position as Director of Volunteers at Norwalk Hospital. Intrigued, Bauer told her friend that if she were ever in the area, she would pursue work there.
A few years later in 1978, Bauer was living in New Canaan and started her philanthropic career, first beginning in the emergency room and pre-natal care. Over time, she moved up to full-time positions. Originally a school teacher with a passion for history, Bauer found yet another calling in helping raise money for the hospital and became Chairperson of the Norwalk Hospital Board of Trustees.
To date, Carol and her husband have helped raise over $50 million for the hospital. Several medical units have been named after them, including the Bauer Center for Emergency Care and the Jeffery Peter Bauer Newborn Intensive Care Unit. They have also founded the Carol Bauer Nursing Scholarship Fund. (.)
“I feel very loyal to [the hospital] from volunteering there, to serving on the board. Lots of my volunteer work was in the emergency room, which is a kind of window to the community. We also lost our first child, and we wanted to give back, so maybe that could be prevented,” said Bauer.
While on the hospital board, she co-chaired several capital campaigns where Bauer would meet with investors in order to gather donations.
“People tend to want to give to a specific program, equipment or department,” she said, emphasizing that she only gave to departments and programs that she and her husband believed in. It has become something of a family tradition, perhaps.
“Our children are part of our foundation, and they can come up with something to give to, but they must be involved in it — be on the board, for example. We want to be personally involved in the things we give to,” she said.
After she stepped down as chairperson in 2002, Bauer studied to become a hospital chaplain, now her current role. She said that speaking with terminally ill patients and their families is a sacrosanct experience.
“When you can be with people who are so seriously ill, that’s when their faith comes forward. We’re inter-faith chaplains — we don’t preach at the patrons; we listen to them and try to keep them in touch with their spiritual self. When I’m with people who have families who died, I consider it holy ground. It’s a privilege to be with them and try to meet them with whatever spiritual needs they have,” said Bauer.
“Nothing they tell us will ever go anyplace. Patients share their inner thoughts and fears. They will share with us, sometimes, things that they don’t want to share with their own family. We are ‘intimate strangers.’”
Bauer moved with her husband from New Canaan — where she resided for 37 years — to Wilton in 2006, in order to be closer to one of her three children who is a Wilton resident. In April, she and George celebrated their 57th anniversary. He is also active at the hospital, and has held positions as treasurer and chairman of the board of trustees.
She has also given lectures on Napoleon Bonaparte to senior citizen groups in Wilton, New Canaan and around Fairfield County. Once again, her inspiration came from France.
“Roueil-Malmaison is a place where Napoleon had his chateau, where he would go for the weekend,” she said. When friends came to visit her, she would give them a tour of the town, reciting facts and stories about the famous leader. “It was a fun part of my life,” she recounted. “After four years I felt I knew the Bonapartes personally.”