AmeriCares founder Macauley dies
Published 3:58 pm, Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Macauley, who worked in the paper industry as an executive for decades, started AmeriCares in 1982 in New Canaan, serving as its CEO until 2002.
In the following three decades AmeriCares has grown in to the largest private health care charity in the world and distributed more than $10 billion in aid in 147 countries since 1982, much of it focused in providing needed medical supplies.
"He was a giant of a man," Dean Maglaris, a member of the organization's Board of Directors said. "I've never met anybody else in my life who would give everything and anything to help people."
Starting in 1968, Macauley began dedicating more of his time and resources to humanitarian relief, and in that year founded the Shoeshine Boys Foundation to help support Vietnamese children orphaned in the Vietnam War, Maglaris said.
In 1975, he mortgaged his New Canaan home to charter a jet to rescue hundreds of Vietnamese babies injured when an earlier jet carrying them to the United States was shot down.
AmeriCares President and CEO Curt Welling said Macauley's willingness to take a big financial risk typified his aggressive approach that put the disadvantaged first, and said the expedition could be viewed as the first of hundreds of worldwide relief missions AmeriCares would undertake.
"He did that with money he didn't have and mortgaged his home and could have lost it," Welling said. "AmeriCares was an extension of Bob Macauley and a reflection of his personal vision and commitment to not take no for an answer when it came to helping people."
In the late 1970s, Pope John Paul II met Macauley and asked him to organize relief for the pontiff's native Poland, where citizens lacked basic medical supplies and care under a Communist regime, Maglaris said.
After being asked to commit to a minimum of $50,000 in supplies to the country, Macauley was able to raise $1.5 million in aid for the country, which was transported in 38 airlifts -- an effort which convinced Macauley a formal organization like AmeriCares could be a powerful force, Maglaris said.
"Bob told me that when the pope asks for a favor you comply," he said. "How can you say no to the pope?"
After operating for 20 years in New Canaan, the organization moved to a new headquarters on Hamilton Avenue in Stamford in 2003 with a 60,000 square-foot warehouse to accommodate the growing scope of its role providing medical supplies to disaster zones, Welling said.
Macauley who lived in New Canaan from 1971 to 2002 before moving to North Palm Beach, has remained chairman of the organization's Board of Directors up until his death, Welling said.
During major humanitarian responses such as AmeriCares's response to the earthquake in Haiti beginning late last year, Macauley has continued to inquire about bureaucratic hurdles and other behind-the-scenes details of day-to-day operations, Welling said.
After serving in the U.S. Air Transport Command in North Africa during World War II, Macauley graduated from Yale University in 1945 with a political science degree. Macauley then worked in the paper industry for M.L. Macauley and Company, Great Northern Board Sales, and Great Northern Paper Company, before starting his own company the Virginia Fibre Corporation in 1972.
For his humanitarian efforts, Macauley has garnered numerous philanthropic awards, including the President's Volunteer Action Award, the Cross of Grand Officer of the Order of Malta, the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award, the Jefferson Award for Lifetime Achievement, and honorary doctorates from Fairfield University, St. Michael's College, and St. Lawrence University.
Macauley is survived by his loving wife, Leila; a daughter, Melinda Macauley of San Francisco, Calif; a son, Robert Macauley Jr., of Charlotte, Vt., a stepson, Bart Rice, of Kapolei, Hawaii; a sister, Sheila Duncan, of Castellaras, France; four grandchildren, a niece, and a grandniece.
A memorial service will be held for Macauley on May 14, 2011, at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 111 Oenoke Ridge Road, New Canaan.
Memorial donations may be made to AmeriCares, 88 Hamilton Ave., Stamford, CT, 06902.