Scott Bieler was visiting a relative who was receiving care at Roswell Park Cancer Institute recently when he looked out of the room and got a striking view of the hospital’s new, $50.5 million Clinical Sciences Center.
Bieler had given to the Clinical Sciences Center campaign before, and had considered donating again. But the visits and the view from his relative’s room convinced him of what he needed to do.
Bieler made a substantial gift to the cancer center, although neither he nor the hospital will reveal how much. But it was big enough that hospital thought it should name the building the Scott Bieler Clinical Sciences Center.
“When I look at this building, and you think that your name is going to be associated – not only with that building but what it means and what’s going to go on in there – how can you not feel honored? How can you not feel blessed beyond belief?” Bieler, the president of the West Herr Automotive Group, said after a news conference held Tuesday on the roof of a Roswell Park parking ramp, as the sleek, 11-story namesake building loomed in the background.
This is the first time the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation has named a building on the hospital campus in a donor’s honor, said Lee C. Wortham, the foundation chair.
Officials declined to reveal the size of the gift Tuesday, saying Bieler requested the amount remain private in keeping with his nature.
Hospital and foundation executives said Bieler’s latest gift is part of a long record of volunteer work and philanthropy. “You can’t talk about Scott Bieler without talking about a pattern of service, to Roswell Park and to the entire community,” Wortham said after the event.
The news conference drew about 200 hospital employees, West Herr workers, Bieler family members and friends and guests from the community.
In introducing Bieler, Candace S. Johnson, Roswell Park’s president and CEO, said he let hospital and foundation officials know about his intention to make the donation just a few weeks ago. She said it is in keeping with his generosity and the generosity of West Herr employees to Roswell Park and to events linked to the cancer center, such as the Ride for Roswell.
“This is a man whose heart and soul are in this community. And I’m just lucky that at the top of the list is Roswell Park, where he has a huge commitment,” Johnson said.
Bieler said he decided to make the donation as an outgrowth of his years-long involvement, on his own and with his West Herr partners, with the cancer center.
He has served on the board of Roswell Park’s foundation since 2002 and said that has given him an insight into the good work performed by the hospital, its staff and volunteers.
“I’ve seen the empathy. I’ve seen the heart. I’ve seen the things you don’t see on a doctor’s chart that really tell you how special this place is,” Bieler said in his remarks.
Among the long list of people Bieler humbly thanked on Tuesday were his partner, Kathy Lasher; her son, Matt Lasher; and his parents, Robert and Sally Bieler, who were both in attendance.
Bieler’s donation will go to the cancer center’s Priority Endowment Fund.
Bieler served as co-chair of a fundraising campaign for the Clinical Sciences Center that brought in $32 million. He also is among a “Circle of 10” families that each contributed $1 million toward the cost of the building.
And he is a past winner of Roswell Park’s Katherine Anne Gioia Award for volunteer leadership.
Last year, The Buffalo News named Bieler one of its Outstanding Citizens, and the Canisius College board of regents honored him with its 2015 Distinguished Citizen award.
Bieler joined West Herr as a salesman in 1975 and rose through the ranks, becoming president in 1997 and majority owner in 2000. Automotive News ranked West Herr the 20th largest dealer group in the country for 2015, based on new retail vehicle sales.
One of the dealership’s most loyal customers, Sally Gagliardo, was invited to speak Tuesday. She first bought a Ford pickup from Bieler in 1977, and she’s been going back ever since.
When she was diagnosed with colorectal cancer 11 years ago, Gagliardo said, she turned to Bieler for advice. He urged her to go to Roswell Park for treatment. She enrolled in a clinical trial and the Cuba resident said she is cancer-free today.
She thanked her friend for, as she put it, donating to “this beautiful building, this place of hope.”
Roswell Park built the 11-story, 142,000-square-foot Clinical Sciences Center to house patient clinical care services, research and support programs. It will include an expanded chemotherapy clinic and clinical research services clinic that will give patients a skyline view. The project will be completed by the spring and the building will be fully occupied by the end of summer.