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In memoriam: Stan Pauley, philanthropist and namesake of the VCU Health Pauley Heart Center

The longtime university benefactor also helped lay the foundation for the VCU College of Engineering and supported clinical research at VCU Massey Cancer Center.

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By Alex Nowak

Virginia Commonwealth University and the Richmond community have lost a philanthropist and a visionary. Stanley Frank Pauley, a longtime champion of advancing engineering and medical innovations, passed away at age 93 on Nov. 20.

Pauley was an integral part of the VCU and VCU Health community for decades. His legacy lives on through his family and the profound impact of the Pauley Family Foundation, which he and his wife, Dorothy, founded in 2011.

Pauley and his company, Carpenter Co., were instrumental in the early stage growth of the VCU College of Engineering with a $4 million gift in 2005. Later that year, the Pauleys made an indelible mark on VCU’s medical campus with a gift that named the VCU Health Pauley Heart Center. His family’s generosity extends to VCU Massey Cancer Center and throughout the state.

“We are eternally grateful for the deep commitment of Stan Pauley and his family, whose many contributions have forever shaped our institution,” said Michael Rao, Ph.D., president of VCU and VCU Health System. “In his forthright style, Stan gave me good advice when I arrived that has served me very well in leading VCU over the last 11 plus years. I will be forever grateful to Stan for his leadership vision, support and generosity. The Pauleys are tireless in their advocacy for innovative cardiovascular research, treatment and care, and they have ensured that the VCU Pauley Heart Center is equipped with the necessary tools to save and significantly improve lives.

“Additionally, their commitment to the College of Engineering has built a foundation for success for future generations of engineers and scientists. And their support of clinical research at VCU Massey Cancer Center enables us to make groundbreaking discoveries in the fight against cancer,” Rao said. “The Pauleys’ mark on VCU is indelible and will benefit students, patients, faculty, staff, alumni and so many others forever.”

The Pauley family has committed more than $28 million in private philanthropy to VCU, placing them among the most generous benefactors in the institution’s history.

A commitment to enhancing cardiovascular care

The philanthropic connection between Pauley and VCU Health’s cardiology practice began in 2006. A longtime patient of Kenneth Ellenbogen, M.D., director of clinical cardiac electrophysiology and pacing at VCU Health, Pauley was impressed by the staff and treatment he received. He directed his family foundation to make a $5 million gift to VCU Health’s heart center to support a variety of new research initiatives and comprehensive educational programs. In recognition of the gift, the center was named the VCU Health Pauley Heart Center, a designation that placed it among only a few named major heart centers in the country.

“Stan Pauley is synonymous with the VCU Health Pauley Heart Center. Over the last few years, we have grown into one of the top heart centers in the country because of Stan,” Ellenbogen said. “To me, he is a true VIP. I am thankful to have known Stan and his wonderful family.”

The gift began a long history of supporting VCU Health and advancing its world-class cardiology program.

In 2012, the Pauley Family Foundation gave another $5 million to recruit the heart center’s first director and five new research faculty members, along with startup funds for research staff, lab costs and equipment. The funds also created new research programs in cardiovascular disease prevention, women’s cardiovascular health and congenital heart disease.

Cardio-oncology expert Gregory Hundley, M.D., was brought on as the Pauley Heart Center’s inaugural director in 2018. To provide Hundley with the appropriate equipment to continue his high-caliber research on preventive heart care for patients undergoing chemotherapy at the Pauley Heart Center, the Pauley family committed $4 million to build an 8,000-square-foot cardiovascular imaging suite with echocardiography and MRI technology.

“These are phenomenal tools that allow us to see what’s going on inside the body, look at the effects of new therapies we’re testing and see if the therapies are working,” Hundley said. “This technology is critically important because it doesn’t use any ionizing radiation, so we can obtain relevant information about the body with the same effect as an X-ray but without the potentially harmful exposure.”

In 2020, the Pauley Family Foundation pledged another $5 million to support the research of comprehensive treatments for patients with cardiac arrhythmia — a condition that affects more than 4 million Americans and manifests in harmful irregular heartbeats. This recent gift will help VCU Health researchers perfect their diagnoses and deliver innovative therapies to treat the condition in an effective, cost-efficient manner.

“The generosity of the Pauley family in establishing the VCU Health Pauley Heart Center created a tremendous momentum that has enabled us to attract the best and brightest clinicians and researchers in the country to treat heart failure and heart disease,” said Peter Buckley, M.D., dean of the VCU School of Medicine and executive vice president for medical affairs at VCU Health System.

VCU Health’s new CEO, Arthur Kellermann, M.D., expressed sadness at the news. “My only regret since moving to Richmond is that I did not get to meet Mr. Pauley before his passing. I will always honor him by committing my support and that of VCU Health to keeping the Pauley Center at the forefront of cardiac care in the commonwealth and United States.”

A lasting legacy in engineering

Before establishing the Pauley Heart Center, the Pauley family played a critical role in transforming the VCU College of Engineering into a renowned multidisciplinary research enterprise. As a founding trustee of the VCU College of Engineering Foundation and chairman and CEO of comfort cushioning products manufacturer Carpenter Co. — a position he held until his death — Stan Pauley drew on his decades of global business success and product innovation expertise to help VCU’s engineering program provide opportunities and drive economic development across the Richmond region.

Pauley was instrumental in the construction of the then-School of Engineering in the late 1980s. In 2005, when more space was needed for growing academic and co-curricular programming, the Pauleys pledged $4 million to support construction of the engineering school’s 115,000-square-foot facility, East Hall, which opened in 2008. In recognition of their gift, VCU named an octagonal tower of the building the Pauley Pavilion. For years, the Pauley Pavilion housed the VCU da Vinci Center for Innovation, which advances innovation and entrepreneurship through cross-disciplinary collaboration.

Advancing cancer research

Pauley and his family’s devotion to advancing medical research and patient care extends to VCU Massey Cancer Center. Over the years, the family has contributed about $160,000 to the center to advance critical research conducted by various Massey physician-scientists.

"Support from the Pauley family has made a major, positive impact on clinical research at Massey Cancer Center,” said Robert Winn, M.D., director of Massey Cancer Center. “Their ongoing generosity has advanced innovative research that has led to clinical trials based on Massey discoveries aimed at developing and applying more effective means of preventing and treating cancer.”

An impact felt throughout Virginia

Pauley’s philanthropic endeavors have supported education and arts throughout the state for decades. The family’s generosity can be seen supporting other area universities in the pursuit of scientific education, at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and at Richmond CenterStage performing arts center.

In 2013, Stan and Dorothy Pauley were awarded the Architecture Medal for Virginia Service by the Virginia chapter of the American Institute of Architects. It is the organization’s most prestigious award honoring efforts to improve the architectural environment in the state. The award acknowledges the huge impact that Pauley had on construction and improving the physical environment of Virginia.

With additional reporting from James Shea.