by Eric D. Lehman, UB Communications Specialist
Philanthropists George and Carol Bauer, who have a long-established commitment of support for University of Bridgeport, have invested an additional $2 million to enhance the future of innovation and manufacturing on campus.
One million dollars gifted directly to UB will ensure the longevity of the Innovation Center in Bauer Hall, a resource for student-entrepreneurs and Connecticut businesses that comprises a podcast studio, conference and presentation rooms, individualized computer work stations, collaborative “brainstorming booths,” and lab areas to students as well as the local community. The Bauers’ previous $2.7 million gift enabled the creation of the Innovation Center, which houses the Student Entrepreneur Center (SEC), the SEC Club, a Technology Commercialization Group (TCG), and the Bridgeport Accelerator Program. Their additional gift will establish an endowment for a Director, Assistant to the Director, Entrepreneurs in Residence who provide support, and other operations of the Center.
“Giving to an endowment is a great idea,” says George. “We want to be supportive of building the Center and want to be sure that there is money that earns income and continues in a sustainable way for the future.”
“This will ensure the long-term health of the Innovation Center,” agrees Elena Cahill, Vice President of Innovation, Strategy, and Advancement. “Stewardship is a mission we share with the Bauers.”
A second gift of $1 million to Goodwin University will facilitate recruitment for the planned extension of Goodwin’s manufacturing program to the UB campus. “If you have a passion for a new good or service, you need a place to facilitate that passion,” says George. “That’s what the Innovation Center is all about, just like the Manufacturing Center is about giving options to young people who want to work with their hands.”
This Manufacturing Center will host majors from Goodwin’s Manufacturing, Machining, and Logistics program, one of several cross-pollinating initiatives planned for the new partnership between the schools. The Bauers’ donation will provide the ability to recruit students via a strategically targeted scholarship fund.
“This scholarship allows students interested in something like welding to learn in proximity to a four-year program,” says George. “They will get training for meaningful and well-paying jobs — and have the opportunity to take courses in philosophy, literature, and mathematics.”
“I think we have to work harder in our educational system to find out what their passion is and then find a job that matches that,” agrees Carol. “Then we can work on giving them the facility and skills they need.”
With a master’s degree in engineering, George spent his long career at IBM in a variety of executive positions including marketing, finance, and business systems. After retiring in 1987, he founded an investment banking firm, The GPB Group Ltd., and serves on numerous corporate boards. Carol Bauer serves on the board of trustees at Norwalk Hospital, founded and led the hospital’s ER Reception Volunteers, and serves as an on-call volunteer chaplain to assist grieving families and sick patients.
In 1989, they founded the Bauer Family Foundation to support healthcare and education initiatives, seeing their good fortune as an opportunity to give back. “We need to think about stewardship, not just of financial resources but our skills and gifts as well,” says George. “Stewardship is a mindset as much as anything.”
The fact that these donations benefit students at both UB and Goodwin also demonstrates the synergy between the two institutions and their missions, particularly forays into certificate programs and other non-traditional education. “We think that collaboration is marvelous,” says George. “Bringing the perspective of Goodwin, especially with a manufacturing center, is brilliant.”
“The Bauers live their values,” says UB’s president, Danielle Wilken. “Not only do they support causes that they believe in, they roll up their sleeves and engage with the individuals and institutions they support. They are there for our students.”
“The Bauers’ gift is yet another step in creating the cross-culture between the two universities that we envisioned two years ago,” adds Goodwin’s president, Mark Scheinberg. “There are common themes at play that we can capitalize on: entrepreneurship, innovation, workforce development and, most important, service to our students. The Bauers’ demonstration of trust in us today means life-changing advantages for students, their families, the employers, and their communities.”
It comes as no surprise that the Bauers also love the new leadership at the University of Bridgeport. “A key element is not just the programs but the leaders,” says George. “One of our successes commercially has been picking the right people for the right enterprise, and that is just as important in non-profits. Investing in leaders like Danielle Wilken and Elena Cahill is something we believe in.”
Finally, the Bauers see their generous donations to UB and Goodwin as part of their larger mission to help underserved communities. “We really feel strongly about the direction they are going,” says Carol. “We all share the idea of leveling the playing field and Bridgeport is the perfect place to do that.”