Great Minds – Suzanne and Raymond Baber, Jr., Endowed Fund for Nursing Education

Nick Nickolopoulos and Suzanne Baber

With a commitment to education and helping others, Sue and Ray Baber built a legacy of supporting St. Joe’s Oakland, most notably as volunteers and through gifts to establish the Suzanne and Raymond Baber, Jr., Endowed Fund for Nursing Education.

The Path to Giving Sue grew up in a small farming village near Grand Rapids, but as an avid reader, her mind and dreams were expansive.  Her interests led her to Central Michigan University where she majored in English and teaching, and later to University of Michigan for a counseling degree. For tuition, Sue relied on scholarships and work study roles like cafeteria dishwasher.  Her commitment paid off with a 19-year career in her beloved fields. Fortuitously, Sue also led a Future Nurses Club at the high school where she taught. 

During his life, Ray Baber was an avid supporter of education. Ray served as a United States Navy Pilot, led General Motors Truck and Assembly and was the Vice President for Campbell Ewald’s Chevrolet account team.  He knew the value of good training and accredited education for much of his success.  The couple generously supported Kettering University and Central Michigan University as well as other organizations.

When they retired in 1996, Ray and Sue wanted to give back to the doctors, nurses and hospital they trusted with their health. They began to volunteer at St. Joe’s. Ray was a greeter, and Sue was assigned to the ICU.  At first she checked people in and out, but her diligence and good nature quickly led to greater responsibilities on the unit. It was during that time Sue began to bond with the nurses.

Making a Difference

“When I was with the nurses in the breakroom, many shared their interest in education like seminars or advanced degrees, wishing they had the means. And, I always wanted to do something to help,” explained Sue. “As patients, Ray and I noticed the staff was very caring and we were impressed by the hospital’s investment in making staff feel confident in their roles. We wanted to build on their commitment because nursing education benefits the nurse, their colleagues, and the patients.”

The Babers’ support has strengthened the nursing education program, funding an onsite annual conference, off-site seminars, certifications, and advanced degrees (see sidebar).

“I started at St. Joe’s as a patient care tech, and Sue always encouraged me to continue my education and broaden my career,” said Nick Nickolopoulos, Director of Nursing – Medical-Surgical/Critical Care/ Nursing Resource Pool. “She is inspiring. And, Sue and Ray’s gifts have strengthened the skills and passion of many nurses at St. Joe’s.” Nick is among the many nurses who became friends with Sue.

And, Sue feels the same way about them. “When I lost Ray in 2005, returning to my volunteer work at St. Joe’s was really important to me. I don’t have any siblings – the nurses are like my family.”

Today, at 90 years old, Sue has retired from volunteering and saves her energy for tai chi and aqua aerobics, “it keeps me going,” she says. She has stayed connected to the General Federation of Women’s Clubs Lake Orion, the Daughters of the American Revolution, and St. Joe’s McAuley Club. And, of course, she continues to read a lot, visit St. Joe’s (she’s especially fond of the Robin L. and James E. Henderson Reflection Garden), and remains in touch with many of the nurses at St. Joe’s. 

“Our nurses, and ultimately, our patients, are so fortunate for the Babers’ generosity,” said Dawn Hanson, Nurse Manager ICU and Scholarship Committee Co-chair. “Sue taught me to be a mentor. It’s an honor to hold true to the integrity of the Babers’ intentions to help nurses build resilience, compassion, and expertise. Both personally and as a nurse leader, I’m extremely grateful to Sue for her friendship and time and to her and Ray for their foresight and gifts.”

Since the article was written, The Suzanne and Raymond Baber, Jr., Endowed Fund for Nursing Education was recognized at the 2019 McAuley Club and Mercy Heritage Society Annual Appreciation Dinner for its ongoing impact, benefitting more than 50 nurses this past year through support for ongoing education including scholarships, graduate residency support, trauma symposiums and national conferences.  Nick Nickolopoulos was promoted to Chief Nursing Officer of St. Joe’s Oakland sister hospital St. Mary Mercy Livonia. 

Nursing Education Achievements 2016-2017

  • 35 Nursing Scholarships (July 2016 – November 2017)
  • 180 nurses attending bi-annual Emergency and Critical Care Conference – onstie at the hospital
  • 3 ICU nurses attended the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Comprehensive Unitbased Safety Program (CUSP)
  • 2 nurses became Certified Emergency Nurses
  • 2 nurses became Critcal Care Registered Nurses

To make a gift to St. Joe’s Oakland, visit:
giving.stjoeshealth.org/oakland

Or, contact the Office of Development

Jana McNair, Regional Director of Major Gifts, at 248-858-3556 or Jana.McNair@stjoeshealth.org

Craig Peiser, Director of Major Gifts, at 248-858-6142 or Craig.Peiser@stjoeshealth.org


Jill Schubiner, Gift Officer, at 248-858-6146 or Jill.Schubiner@stjoeshealth.org

(Source: “Gift of Health” Spring 2017)