Bill Stanley, Vice President of Development and Community Relations for Lawrence + Memorial Hospital / Yale New Haven Health, is this year’s William Crawford Distinguished Service Award recipient. For his decades of volunteer service on behalf of eastern CT’s non-profits and social service agencies, Bill will receive his award at a special dinner event on November 8, 2017 at Mystic Marriott Hotel & Spa. Tickets and sponsorship opportunities are available at this link. Read on to learn about this community-minded individual, and be sure to join us on November 8!
Tell us a little about yourself, Bill.
I’ve lived and – for the most part, worked – in southeastern Connecticut my entire life and have been privileged to interact with great people wherever I’ve been, either in a professional or volunteer capacity, first as a newspaper reporter, then a government lobbyist and now in healthcare.
Your family has a long association with the Norwich area. Can you speak a little about it?
My interest in community service comes from my parents, Bill and Peg Stanley, who were both passionate about giving back to the community. Dad chaired what was then the United Fund (now the United Way) Campaign back in the late 60s and led the flood recovery fundraising drive after the breech of the Spaulding Pond Dam devastated downtown Norwich.
On top of raising three children and supporting Dad’s political career, Mom managed to volunteer at Backus Hospital, served on the Auxiliary there, and also volunteered at St. Patrick Cathedral. She also supported many local and national charities philanthropically, which gave me an early appreciation for giving.
Tell us about your career history with L+M Hospital / Yale New Haven Health. Do any particular highlights stand out?
My career at L+M began quite by accident. I was having lunch 19 years ago with then-CEO Bill Christopher because the position of VP for Development had been open for a couple of years and there was a rumor that they finally had found someone to fill it. I was working in the same capacity at Backus Hospital and was just curious about who had been hired to take the job. When the topic arose, Bill said their top candidate had changed her mind and would not be taking the job and that they’d have to start the search over. After an awkward pause, I asked Bill if I should submit my name. Next thing you know, Bill’s diagramming the L+M position on a napkin while we’re having lunch at the Recovery Room.
He invited me to come in the following Monday morning to meet with Board members Naomi Rachleff and John Budds. “If you don’t screw it up, you’ve got the job,” he said. Apparently, I did OK and this is where I’ve been for the past 18 ½ years. Our two greatest successes have been the hospital’s Centennial celebration in 2012, when our Gala drew 2,000 people to Mohegan Sun, and our Capital Campaign, which should reach its $30 million goal by the end of this year in support of our cancer center.
You are well-known in eastern CT for your volunteer work. How did you first get involved?
Back in the mid 1990s, I was asked to chair a dinner roast of then-Gov. John Rowland to benefit United Cerebral Palsy in Greater Hartford. We got a lot of sponsors, put together an entertaining speaking program and raised a lot of money for a great cause. We did another one the following year, roasting Billy DiBella, then the Senate Majority Leader, and that was successful, too.
Soon after, I was hired as Director of Corporate Communications at Backus Hospital and was its representative on the boards of the Chamber of Commerce and the United Way. Both are great organizations for all the vital work they do and the benefits they both provide for the community.
You’ve been the face and voice of many of the Chamber’s recent award dinners as our Master of Ceremonies. How does it feel now to be on the other side of the proverbial stage this time, being the one to receive an honor?
A number of people have asked if I’m going to MC my own event. Being an MC is fun and useful. It gives you a chance to shape an event where you’re honoring someone in the community for their great accomplishments, but not letting the thing get out of hand. No one benefits from a testimonial that goes until 10 or 11 at night, where you have an endless list of speakers who go on and on. I remind speakers that a long speech does not equate to a good speech, and that if there IS going to be an extended presentation, it’ll be by the honoree. If we’ve done a good job recounting the honoree’s successes, keeping the speakers to about five minutes each and finishing the event by around 9 o’clock, it’s been a success.
We want people to have an enjoyable evening and come back for the next one, not roll their eyes and throw away the invitation when the next one comes up.
Has eastern CT changed in any significant way from when you were growing up?
Someone who left eastern Connecticut for another part of the country 30 years ago wouldn’t recognize some parts of eastern Connecticut today. Imagine driving along Route 2 among what used to be woods and farmlands and seeing Foxwoods rising from the landscape today, or looking over from I-395 and seeing Mohegan Sun? Or driving along Pequot Avenue in New London and seeing Electric Boat’s massive waterfront facility located on what used to be a junkyard? Norwich Free Academy was showing its age back in the 1970s when I was enrolled there. Today, it is one of the region’s true gems with sparkling new facilities and beautiful old buildings that have been nicely renovated – a lot of that having been funded, in part, through philanthropy.
The Day and The Bulletin are now around-the-clock news organizations, and Backus and Lawrence + Memorial hospitals are now part of larger healthcare systems that have breathed new life into both institutions. So those are just a few of the many changes this community has undergone during the past 30 years or so.
What is a seldom-known fact about you?
People assume that because I play a lot of golf, I must be pretty good at it. Actually, I stink. But I love the game and every now and then will have a pretty good hole or a pretty good round that keeps bringing me back.
Do you have any favorite hobbies or interests?
Besides golf, I like to write about sports and occasionally other stuff on Facebook. Usually, it’s a rant when the Yankees or the Giants aren’t playing well. People get a kick out of it, and it never fails to stir good-natured dialogue between friends who are fellow Yankees and Giants fans and those aligned with the evil empires of the Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots.
Are there any projects or developments coming down the pipeline that you’re excited to work on?
Short-term, we want to hit that $30 million Capital Campaign goal for the cancer center, and we’re less than $100,000 away. This great, generous community will get us there without a doubt. Not sure yet what the next big project will be, but whatever it is, it’ll be exciting and good for the community.
Anything else you’d like to share with eastern CT’s business community?
I hope business and industry, both large and small, will continue to grow in eastern Connecticut, creating more jobs, strengthening the economy, remaining active in the Chamber of Commerce and supporting the good work of local charities like the United Way and the Three Rivers College Foundation, and, of course, L+M Hospital. Despite our fiscal challenges in Hartford, this remains a great place to live, work, play and raise a family. Let’s keep it going!