Syracuse University Magazine

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Carol Martineau Baldwin '52

Courageous Crusader

Carol Baldwin is a force to be reckoned with in her quest for a breast cancer cure

By Christine Yackel

In her very first class at SU, Carol Martineau Baldwin sat next to the young man she would one day marry. But at 5-foot-11, she would not accept his invitation to a dance unless he met her height requirement. “If he had been shorter than me, I wouldn’t have gone out with him,” says Baldwin, a native Syracusan who together with her grandparents, parents, and four of her grandchildren comprise a long line of SU graduates. Fortunately, Alexander Baldwin ’53, G’54 passed the test, and the couple went on to marry, move to Long Island, and raise six children, including the four Baldwin brothers—Alec, Daniel, William, and Stephen—of stage, screen, and television fame. 

Baldwin says her sons must have inherited their acting ability from her because she gave an award-worthy performance at Stephen’s wedding just a few weeks after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1990. Her doctor advised against having surgery before the big event, so Baldwin pulled herself together, put on her best game face, and mingled with 400 wedding guests without letting on about what awaited her in the coming days. “I put on a great show at the wedding, although my heart was broken because I knew what I was going home to,” says Baldwin, who moved back to Syracuse in 1987 a few years after her husband died. “Two days later, I had both of my breasts removed.”

Out of six sisters, Baldwin was the first of three to be diagnosed with breast cancer. But she turned heartbreak into healing by taking a leadership role in the founding of the first Susan G. Komen Foundation chapter in Central New York to help advance the search for a cure and to provide a support group for women dealing with the trauma of undergoing breast cancer surgery and treatment. “After surgery you look at your body and it’s so devastating,” Baldwin says. “That’s why I’ll talk to anyone in need of support any time of day or night because your family really doesn’t understand what you’re going through, and you don’t want to frighten your children by telling them every time you get a pain in your toe you’re worried it might be a reoccurrence of cancer.”  

While visiting a friend on Long Island, Baldwin happened to see a television program about a breast cancer mapping project in West Islip. Before long she was going door to door  collecting data for the Long Island project and then launched a similar mapping project in Syracuse and Onondaga County to gather critical information about the incidence and prevalence of breast cancer in the region. In 1996, in recognition of her dedication to finding a cure, Stony Brook University named its new breast cancer diagnostic and treatment facility the Carol M. Baldwin Breast Care Center—one of only seven centers in the world now equipped with a tomosynthesis machine that features 3-D diagnostic technology. Members of her family were so moved by this honor they established the Carol M. Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Fund to help support research about the disease at Stony Brook, raising $4.2 million to date. 

When Baldwin was approached about establishing a similar fund to support breast cancer research in her own community, she and her family created the Carol M. Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Fund of Central New York, which supports the work of surgeons, oncologists, and radiologists at SUNY Upstate Medical University. All of the proceeds raised in Central New York through a variety of fund-raising events stay in the local community (for a list of fund-raising events, click here). “For every $50,000 grant we give, we make it in memory of a woman who lost her fight against breast cancer,” says Baldwin’s daughter Beth, executive director of the fund. “We also present a photo of the person who died, the title of the grant, and the name of her doctor. So far we have 40 framed pictures.” 

For the Baldwin family, it’s all hands on deck when it comes to raising funds for breast cancer research. Carol is chairwoman of the fund’s board, sons Alec and William serve on the board of the Stony Brook center, while Stephen and Daniel are actively involved in the Upstate chapter, and daughter Jane sits on the board. And in addition to her duties as the fund’s executive director, Beth spends hours at the hospital sitting with patients and their families before, during, and after surgery, and throughout chemotherapy treatments. “My brother Alec makes an annual donation that allows us to send out pink blankets with a handwritten note of encouragement from our mother to women undergoing breast cancer treatment,” Beth Baldwin says. “We’ve also established an endowed lecture series to bring in breast cancer experts to share their knowledge with medical professionals from around the region, and we’ve created a second endowment with a $3.5 million goal to ensure research funds will be available for however long it takes to find a cure.”

With an eye toward preparing the next generation of Baldwins to carry on Carol’s quest for a cure, the newest team members are her granddaughters, Jill Keuchler ’11, who serves as Beth’s administrative assistant, and Jacqueline Baldwin-Calveric ’01, who acts as the fund’s ambassador. “I do the public relations work, go to events with my grandmother, emcee fund-raising events with whichever one of my famous uncles has time to fly in at the last minute, and I’m in charge of our annual run/walk on the SU campus,” she says. “It took me a year to plan the first A Run for Their Life event, but it was worth it because we raised $153,000. My grandmother and I are going to be featured on billboards around town promoting our second run/walk in October, so I’m hoping to surpass the amount we raised last year.” 

At age 82, Baldwin is keenly aware a cure for breast cancer may not be found in her lifetime. But she is comforted by her family’s promise to never stop working until her search for a cure is fulfilled. “You have to understand that I’m not an activist, I’m a crusader,” Baldwin says. “And it is all of the people crusading with me now and in the future who will help us win the battle against breast cancer. Together we will find a cure.” 



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Participants take off at the start of the 2011 A Run for Their Life event, which benefits the Carol M. Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Fund of Central New York. This year's event will be held in October.




Kudos for Carol 

Carol Baldwin has been featured in People magazine, appeared on the Oprah Winfrey, David Letterman, and Montel Williams television shows, among others, and has received numerous awards for her dedication to the cause. Most recently, the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations awarded her the prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honor, which pays homage to remarkable Americans who create a better world in the future by the work they do today. Other honors include:

Harry Chapin Humanitarian Award-Community Service, L.I. Association

Gilda’s Club, New York City 

2002 Grey Goose Vodka Award

Pink Ribbon Pioneer Award, Self Magazine

Woman of the Year, Junior League of Long Island

Special Achievement Award, Three Village Community & Youth Services Inc.

Key to the Town of Brookhaven

Patron Award, Stony Brook School of Medicine

Lisa Cowan Memorial Award, The Sass Foundation

Cancer Survivors Hall of Fame

2008 Women of the Year, Regina Coeli Society