2011-01-06 / Obituaries


Robert C. Macauley, Chairman and Founder of AmeriCares, of Brewster and North Palm Beach, Fla., died peacefully at his home in Florida on December 26, 2010, after a long illness, surrounded by his loving family.

Born on December 11, 1923, in New York City, he attended Greenwich Country Day School, Andover, and Yale. He interrupted his college education to volunteer for service in World War II, where he served in the Air Transport Command in North Africa. Upon returning to the United States he graduated magna cum laude from Yale (Class of 1945W) with a degree in political science.

Following graduation, he worked in the paper industry with M.L. Macauley and Company, Great Northern Board Sales, and Great Northern Paper Company. In 1972, he founded Virginia Fibre Corporation, and remained Chairman until 1990. He also served on the Board of Directors of Greif Brothers Corporation (now Greif, Inc.), W.R. Grace and Company, as well as an advisor to Christmas in April, the National Executive Service Corps, World Share, and New York Medical College.

As his business career advanced, he increasingly focused on philanthropy. In 1968, he founded the Shoeshine Boys Foundation to support Vietnamese children orphaned by the war. In 1975, as Saigon was falling, he mortgaged his New Canaan, CT home to charter the first jet of what became known as Operation Babylift, rescuing hundreds of orphaned Vietnamese babies who had been injured when a prior chartered jet had crashed.

In 1977, he became involved with his next philanthropic endeavor—Covenant House. With his support and guidance, Covenant House grew from a small outpost in New York City to one of the largest privately-funded childcare agencies in the US.

Through his work with Covenant House, Mr. Macauley met Pope John Paul II, who asked him if he could do something to help Poland, which was in desperate need of medical supplies. Leveraging his business acumen and contacts, he was quickly able to raise $1.5 million in aid for Poland, ultimately sending a total of 38 airlifts. He realized that what he could do for Poland, he could also do for the needy worldwide—and so AmeriCares was born.

Since its founding in 1982, AmeriCares has grown to the largest private health care charity in the world. By leveraging gifts in kind from corporate donors, AmeriCares is able to deliver $35 dollars in life-saving aid for every $1 in cash contributions. To date, AmeriCares has distributed over $10 billion of aid to 147 countries (including the US), with a specialty in disaster relief. As Chairman of the Board, Mr. Macauley was focused on AmeriCares continuing growth and success for the past 28 years.

For his philanthropic efforts, Mr. Macauley was the recipient of many humanitarian awards, including the President’s Volunteer Action Award, the Cross of Grand Officer of the Order of Malta, the Caring Ward, the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award, the FREDDIE Award, and the Jefferson Award for Lifetime Achievement, as well as honorary doctorates from Fairfield University, Siena College, Saint Michael’s College, and Saint Lawrence University. He has been featured by ABC News as “Person of the Week,” and was the subject of numerous profiles by major media outlets such as NBC Today and People magazine. He was also the subject of a biography entitled “His Name is Today” by Bill Halamandaris.

Mr. Macauley is survived by his loving wife, Leila; his daughter, Melinda, of San Francisco; his son, Robert, Jr., of Charlotte, Vermont; his stepson, Bart Rice of Kapolei, Hawaii; his sister, Sheila Duncan, of Castellaras, France; his niece, Shayla Wright and grandniece, Karuna, of Nelson, British Columbia; and four grandchildren, Catherine, Noah, Lucianna, and Charlotte.

Memorial services will be held at St. Mark’s Church in New Canaan, Connecticut, on May 14, 2011.

For those who wish to express their love and appreciation for Bob and his humanitarian legacy, contributions may be made to AmeriCares, 88 Hamilton Ave., Stamford, CT 06902. americares.org.

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