Carol and George Bauer have lived by example — working hard, caring for family and community, and sharing their successes to assist others.
On their first date, George Bauer, BS ’53, MS ’59, and Carol Bruns shared hamburgers at Medart’s, a landmark restaurant near Washington University. When the couple returned in honor of their 50th wedding anniversary, the restaurant had become part of the Cheshire Inn, and George treated Carol to a cheeseburger. This year they returned again to celebrate George’s 60th undergraduate Reunion, but with one difference — George now owns the hotel (along with his partner, Bob O’Loughlin). “This time I sprang for the onion rings,” he says.
A scholarship made it possible for George to attend the School of Engineering & Applied Science. Years later, he and Carol are among the most generous supporters of Washington University. One of their first gifts established the Spirit of Washington University Scholarships to help students with unanticipated financial difficulties.
George grew up on a hardscrabble farm in the Missouri Ozarks. The family moved there when he was 11, and he quickly learned self-reliance and responsibility. He recalls, “My dad left school in the third grade. He was a good mechanic, but he knew nothing about farming. I got some books and we read them together.”
George walked two miles each way to a one-room school. He says, “To my knowledge, I was the only one who went on to high school.” His mother inspired him to become the first in the family to go to college. “She always said, ‘There are worlds to conquer out there.’”
In 1989, George, who received a scholarship to attend WUSTL, and Carol Bauer founded the Bauer Family Foundation. One of the foundation’s priorities is to further educational opportunities for students.
Washington University opened up those new worlds for George. He revered several of his professors, particularly Huston Smith, then a brilliant young professor of world religions in Arts & Sciences. George says, “Professor Smith is now in his 90s. I visited him recently to thank him for opening my eyes to a broader worldview.”
George and Carol met when he was vice president of the Interfaith Council at Washington University and she was president of the Baptist Student Union at Harris Teachers’ College. Carol had grown up in St. Louis, and she says, “The tradition of service to others was integral to the fabric of my family.”
After graduation, Carol taught in St. Louis public schools while George served as an officer in the U.S. Army at Ft. Leonard Wood. They married in 1955, and George returned to Washington University for a master’s degree in engineering.
The university had just installed its first IBM 650 computer in a special air-conditioned room in McMillan Hall. George says, “A lot of the faculty members were interested in it, and I couldn’t get enough time on the machine. So I went to the local IBM office and talked them into letting me use their computer at night. When I finished, they offered me a job as a marketing rep.” He adds, “I have two loves in my life — my wife and the computer, in that order.”
George began his career with IBM as an account executive on the McDonnell Douglas account, just as the company landed the contract for the first Mercury space capsule. Over the next 31 years, he served in executive positions in marketing, financial and business systems. He became a group director for Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and he was an early member of the group in the United Kingdom that launched IBM in the consulting business.
The Bauers moved 18 times in the first 25 years of their marriage. Carol continued to teach until they had children. She worked with homebound children with disabilities in Milwaukee, ran a nursery school in her home in Chicago, and taught at a nursery school near the town in Connecticut where they make their home today.
In 1972, IBM sent the Bauers to Paris. There, the family lived on the grounds of Malmaison, the country estate of Napoleon and Josephine. Carol immersed herself in its history and gave small private tours for English-speaking visitors. After the family returned home, she lectured on the Bonapartes nationwide for 12 years.
George retired from IBM in 1987 and founded an investment banking firm, The GPB Group, Ltd. To foster what they call the “Sunday/Monday connection,” in 1989 he and Carol founded the Bauer Family Foundation to benefit others.
In 1992, they established the Jeffrey Peter Bauer Newborn Intensive Care Unit at Norwalk Hospital (Connecticut) in memory of their first child, who died in the hospital when he was five days old. Carol had founded the hospital’s Emergency Room Reception Volunteers in 1978 and led the group for decades. After chairing the hospital’s board of trustees, she earned a certificate in clinical pastoral education. She has served as a nondenominational chaplain at the hospital since 2002. She says, “It is a privilege to help bring a spiritual presence to people in times of crisis.”
Through the Bauer Foundation, Carol and George created a Connecticut chapter of the national “I Have a Dream” program, which guarantees further education to underprivileged students who finish high school. Not content simply to write a check, the Bauers personally “adopted” 43 children from a South Norwalk housing project. Carol says, “Twenty-four of our students have stayed with us the whole way. Some attended community college, some are working, and all have become responsible citizens. Next year, the last five of them will become the first in their families to graduate from college.”
During a Washington University alumni trip to Thailand in 1994, the Bauers visited the village of Chiang Rai, where missionaries were offering sanctuary to young girls rescued from prostitution. George and Carol provided a new building and remained involved. Today the New Life Center provides shelter, education and employment for 150 women and girls.
The Bauers’ commitment to young people extends to Washington University, where George is an emeritus trustee and a member of the New York Regional Cabinet and the Olin Business School National Council. In 2007, the couple endowed the George and Carol Bauer Professorship in Organizational Ethics and Governance at Olin, now held by J. Stuart Bunderson, PhD.
“We admire Dean Gupta’s commitment to the study of ethical issues in the corporate world,” George says. “Olin encourages students to be conscious that value systems come into play in decision-making. It’s important for tomorrow’s leaders to reflect on what they want to do with their lives and how to apply their gifts.” In 2011, the Bauers made a gift to name Bauer Hall, a new facility for graduate business education that will open in 2014.
The School of Engineering & Applied Science honored George with a Distinguished Alumni Award in 2009. In 2011, Washington University honored the Bauers with the Robert S. Brookings Award at Founders Day. They received the Dean’s Medal from Olin Business School in 2012.
“We have been so fortunate,” Carol says. “Now we are stewards of that good luck.” George adds, “Of course, we always remember what Louis Pasteur said about luck favoring the prepared mind.”
Susan Caine is executive director of development communications.
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