Saturday, November 28, 2009

From humble beginnings, a modest philanthropist - Gazette

Choice Hotels, ManorCare founder honored for giving

Stewart Bainum's Commonweal Foundation gives millions to help disadvantaged students.
By Jason Tomassini | The Gazette | Thursday, November 26, 2009

Stewart Bainum's empire began 73 years ago with $3 and a cardboard suitcase.

Bainum, 17 at the time, had been kicked out of his private high school outside Cincinnati because he couldn't afford the tuition.

So he took whatever money and belongings he had, hitchhiked to the Washington area after a recommendation from a friend, found a job as a plumber's assistant and made enough money to go back and get his high school diploma from the school that had tossed him.

"One day I was holding the suitcase too close to the road, and a car hit it," said Bainum, the founder of Choice Hotels International and ManorCare nursing homes. "I had to piece it all back together."

Things never came easily for him, Bainum, 90, said. But he has dedicated much of his life to making things simpler for others.

After making his fortune from Choice Hotels and ManorCare, Bainum began funding the Commonweal Foundation, a nonprofit organization that gives about $12 million per year of Bainum family money to scholarships and educational programs for disadvantaged students.

Last week, the Montgomery County Community Foundation recognized Bainum as the county's philanthropist of the year, honoring the man not for his considerable wealth but for the way he used it.

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