Baltimore, MD

The Baltimore man who wants to give away his million dollar fortune

Ash Jurberg
Stewart Bainum JuniorImage from WikiCommons images

Stewart Bainum Junior has done a lot in his life.

He has run two very successful businesses, served for eight years in the Maryland General Assembly, and tried to buy the Baltimore Sun. Recently he has formed the Venetoulis Institute for Local Journalism with his family as a non-profit organization focused on local Baltimore news and statewide news in Maryland. Last year he created the online non-profit news outlet, The Baltimore Banner.

But what he has become best known for is philanthropy. So let's take a quick look at the Baltimore man who wants to give away his million-dollar fortune.

The Baltimore man who wants to give away his million-dollar fortune

Stewart Bainum Junior may be a rich man now, but he came from modest beginnings.

Stewart's father, Stewart Bainum Senior, dropped out of school in 1936 and hitchhiked from Cincinnati to Washington with just three dollars in his pocket. He worked several jobs, including selling vegetables, driving taxis, and assisting plumbers, and eventually earned enough to buy a house.

He sold that house for a profit, bought a new one and sold it, and kept repeating this process.

Stewart junior was born in the basement of one of these apartments, 30 miles from Baltimore, and by the time Stewart junior was seven, he had lived in six different houses.

After 21 years of flipping houses and general contracting, Stewart senior had enough to purchase a 24-room hotel in Silver Spring, Maryland. This became the start of Choice Hotels. The Maryland-based company now has almost 7,200 franchised hotels globally.

Stewart junior started work in the family business at the age of 12. He started as a janitor and maid before becoming a dishwasher and later construction laborer. He then became the first person in his family to graduate from college.

After college, he worked at another business his father started- ManorCare. He pushed the company to expand rapidly and grow into one of the largest nursing home companies in the U.S.

Through hard work, he has built a multi-million dollar fortune. And now he plans to give it all way.

Giving Pledge

For many years, Stewart junior has been involved in the Bainum Family Foundation, started by his father, which provides early childhood and educational support services. And in 2018, he decided to take his philanthropy one step further by signing the Giving Pledge, in which he promised to give away the majority of his wealth while he was still alive.

My interest in philanthropy and public service grew out of both my religious upbringing, which included a year and a half of divinity school, and my parents' early commitment to giving. They formed a family foundation over 50 years ago and have invested the large majority of their wealth in philanthropy.

People often ask me why these rich people like to publicize their philanthropy. So here is what Stewart junior has to say on that issue.

Historically we’ve preferred to quietly allocate our philanthropic capital. But we believe that joining 'The Giving Pledge' might motivate others to as well. We are especially proud that this pledge also expresses the wishes of our two sons, who share the belief that one’s highest calling is to make a difference in the lives of others.”

Last year he received an award from Inside Philanthropy for creating the Baltimore Banner, to which he is contributing $50 million.

Readers, what do you think of Stewart's story? What other organizations in Baltimore would you like to see him support?

Please leave your comments below.

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