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Bill Stanley announces his retirement from Lawrence + Memorial Hospital

It’s probably an understatement to say that Bill Stanley knows plenty of people throughout southeastern Connecticut. And those who know Stanley tend to like him.

It’s the reason news of his retirement from Lawrence + Memorial Hospital after 21 years comes as a blow to the many people he’s worked with through the years, both at the hospital and in numerous civic organizations he’s been involved with.

“He’s an outstanding human being, in his caring for other people and his commitment to the community. He will be greatly missed,” said Naomi Rachleff, 90, of New London, a longtime friend, hospital volunteer and former member of the L+M board of directors.

Stanley, 65, will continue is his role as L+M’s vice president of government and community relations until mid-October. After that, he said, he intends to head to his residence in Florida with his partner, Karen Buck, and work on both his handicap and temper on the golf course. He still will have a place in New London when he comes back north.

“I’ve pretty much accomplished what I set out to do,” Stanley said. “I don’t know a lot of people towards the end of their life who look back and say, ‘I wish I had worked a few more years.’”

Stanley made his presence felt in eastern Connecticut in many ways, community fundraising being at the top of that list.

During his time at L+M, he oversaw the hospital’s Centennial Capital Campaign, chaired by retired Pfizer executive Dan Brannegan, which raised a record $30 million to fund creation of the Smilow Cancer Center in Waterford.

“Time after time people came through to generously support us,” Stanley said. “And to think this was done during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. The credit doesn’t go to me. It goes to the great staff and volunteers and to the people who contributed their talent, their time and treasure.”

L+M Healthcare President and CEO Patrick Green said Stanley has been a “pillar in our organization for many years.”

“Bill’s talent and skills have resulted in his having played an important role in the growth and development of the hospital” Green said in a statement. "My sincerest thanks and best wishes go to Bill as he enters this new important phase of his life."

A Norwich native and Norwich Free Academy graduate, Stanley is a former reporter for The Day, campaign press secretary for former Gov. William O’Neill and director of corporate communications at the Backus Hospital in Norwich. He started at L+M in 1999.

He is the son of William and Margaret Stanley of Norwich, parents who Stanley said greatly influenced his desire to give back to the community. His father was an author, historian and politician who served two terms as a state senator and was a champion of the city of Norwich. Both his mother and father were involved in numerous charitable campaigns that included establishment of the St. Jude’s Common elderly housing complex.

“They both did a lot for the community, and I saw how much that meant to them and the people they helped,” Stanley said. “That sort of rubbed off on me. I kind of inherited an obligation that my parents passed along that you give back to the community. I love the community and I love the people who live here.”

Stanley never got involved in politics like his father and said he preferred “standard community service” to the stress and drama.

Stanley served more than 20 years on the board of directors for the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut, including two terms as chairman. He spent nine years on the Three Rivers Community College Foundation Board, eight as chairman. In 2017, he received the chamber’s William Crawford Distinguished Service Award.

He continues to be a member of the boards for the United Way of Southeastern Connecticut and The Connecticut Mirror. In 2007, he spearheaded an $8.4 million fundraising campaign for United Way.

Most recently, Stanley joined with Brannegan, retired OB/GYN Dr. Henry Amdur and attorney Dan King to raise more than $45,000 in the #FitfortheFrontline challenge, a national initiative to raise money for front-line health care workers.

“Anybody that’s had anything to do with Bill likes him and thinks highly of him,” chamber of commerce President Tony Sheridan said. “He will be sorely missed at the hospital and in the region. He’s an institution in so many ways.”

In addition to being a good storyteller, Sheridan said, Stanley was a sounding board for ideas and a person who not only volunteered “for stuff,” but followed through and put the time and energy into whatever he was involved with.

“When people in the community think of L+M Hospital, they think of Bill Stanley. That’s how deep his influence and demonstrated commitment to health care in this region has been,” said Ulysses Hammond, a former member and chairman of the hospital’s board of directors.

“He has been the hospital’s electrifying community connector and rainmaker,” he said.

Among other people, Stanley thanked Brannegan, Rachleff, John Budds and Dr. Jay Allen for leadership and guidance during his time at the hospital. He called Rachleff the matriarch of this hospital and a “friend, mentor and self-described partner in crime since the day I landed here in 1999.” He said Brannegan was the hospital’s “rock of Gibraltar” for more than a decade, leading by example and setting the tone during the $30 million centennial campaign.

New London Mayor Michael Passero said Stanley has been a remarkable emissary for the hospital to the city.

“He has come to personify L+M’s role as a true community hospital. His legacy will be the strong partnership he built between the city administration and the hospital administration,” Passero said.

L+M Healthcare has not announced a replacement for Stanley but in May hired Christine Meola as the vice president of development for L+M Healthcare, a Yale New Haven Health member that includes L+M, Westerly Hospital, the Visiting Nurse Association of Southeastern Connecticut and ambulatory services throughout the region.

In a statement, L+M Healthcare said Meola would “provide strategic direction, leadership and daily management to the staff of the Lawrence + Memorial Hospital Development Office and the Westerly Hospital Foundation” and be responsible for the development and fundraising activities of both hospitals.

g.smith@theday.com

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