Longtime local volunteer honored with Rotary Club Humanitarian Award
By Ed Nadolski
Editor in Chief
A lifelong Burlington area resident who transformed himself from humble farm boy to bank president was honored Jan. 21 by the Burlington Rotary Club with its Humanitarian Award.
James Bauman – whose record of community service spans decades and includes service clubs, churches, chambers of commerce and, in recent years, local social service agency Love Inc. – was hailed by those who know him as a self-made man with an oversized heart.
“He’s the anchor of everything we do here,” said Tom Tess, a fellow board member at Love Inc., who has volunteered and worked alongside Bauman at the agency that serves more than 600 families a month through its food pantry, counseling and mentoring services.
“He almost singlehandedly puts together our budget each year,” Tess said. “He sees the big picture, but has the uncanny ability to lead us through to that goal.”
In addition to serving on the volunteer board, Bauman has worked for several years as the organization’s bookkeeper and remains the steady hand behind all financial decisions made at Love Inc., according to Executive Director Bill Schoessling.
“He’s been an absolute mentor to me and he has a great business mind,” Schoessling added, noting that the agency has seen exponential growth in recent years thanks in no small part to Bauman’s contributions.
Bruce Bauman, a friend and relative of James Bauman, said James has a special place in his heart for those who exist on the margins of society.
“He has a unique awareness of those who are less fortunate in the world,” Bruce said.
James Bauman, who grew up on a farm just outside Burlington, didn’t have the opportunity to attend college. As a young man he took a job as a data entry clerk at the former Bank of Burlington.
In a career that spanned 41 years and included the local bank’s sale to M&I (now BMO Harris) Bank, Bauman worked his way up to branch manager and eventually bank president before again becoming a branch manager following the bank’s sale.
He said the fact that he didn’t get a chance to attend college motivated him to work harder and achieve more.
And while he experienced a meteoric rise in his professional life, Bauman remained heavily engaged in community service.
He has served as a member of local Jaycees, Kiwanis and Rotary clubs, is past president of the Burlington Area Chamber of Commerce and has been a liturgical music minister at St. Charles Catholic Church in Burlington.
In addition to their 30 years as liturgical music ministers, Bauman and his wife Carolyn have performed locally in a variety of bands.
“I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this award,” said Jim Peterson, a former bank colleague and friend of Bauman.
The award was a surprise for Bauman who was brought to the meeting under the guise that Love Inc. was to be honored. Once there, however, he found himself surrounded by family, friends and colleagues who came to witness the event.
Along with a plaque honoring him for his humanitarian efforts, Bauman received a Paul Harris Fellowship from Rotary Club President Roman Tomal.
The fellowship, named for the founder of Rotary, represents a $1,000 donation to the Rotary Foundation and will be used for global antipoverty and polio eradication efforts.
James and Carolyn Bauman raised four children – Pamela, Rita, Stephan and the late Brenda.
Stephan, who is now CEO and president of World Relief, a non-profit organization with programs around the globe, said his father planted the seed for human service that became his avocation.
“The single most influential leader in my life is my father,” Stephan said. “He respects everyone, fights for the little guy, is a man of integrity and lives out his wisdom.
“If more people were like my dad, the world would be a better place.”