In Memoriam: Thomas A. Saunders III, Alumnus With ‘Generous Spirit’
Thomas A. Saunders III (MBA ’67), of Palm Beach, Florida, and New York, a devoted University of Virginia and Darden School of Business supporter and former chair of the Darden School Foundation Board of Trustees, passed away Sept. 9. The Ivor, Virginia, native was 86.
Saunders’ mark on UVA was immense and spanned decades. In addition to chairing the Darden Board of Trustees from 1994 to 1997, Saunders was a member of the UVA Board of Visitors and co-chair of the University’s 1995 capital campaign. He and others drove the effort to create the University of Virginia Investment Management Co., for which he served as a board member. Saunders earned his MBA from Darden in 1967.
“Tom Saunders demonstrated great leadership and commitment on behalf of the University of Virginia,’’ UVA President Jim Ryan said. “His life and his dedication to education will always be an inspiration for the entire University community.”
Saunders served as a founding member of the Darden Principal Donor Society, the recognition given for the school’s highest level of giving, and received the Charles C. Abbott Award, the school’s highest alumni honor, in 2005. During his time on the UVA Board of Visitors, he helped lead the efforts that resulted in the Darden School achieving financial self-sufficiency and independence.
Saunders Hall, the Darden School’s central gathering place, was named in his honor in 1996 in recognition of his extraordinary generosity. Saunders worked closely with architect Robert A.M. Stern to design Darden’s new grounds in the spirit of Thomas Jefferson’s Academical Village.
“Tom Saunders lived a life of service,” Michael Woodfolk, president of the Darden School Foundation, said. “And partly because of how it changed his own life, Darden was among the many passions he loved supporting to change the lives of countless others. He represented the best of our community, and we are grateful for the incredible example he set for us all.”
Saunders, along with his family, remained steadfast supporters of the University, and in 2021, Saunders, along with his wife Jordan and daughter Calvert Saunders Moore, a 1990 graduate of the College of Arts & Sciences, gave a $10 million gift to the Jefferson Scholars Foundation to create the University’s first-ever endowed University Professorships. The gift was matched by UVA’s Bicentennial Professors Fund, providing $20 million in total investment.
“For over 40 years, we have been committed to supporting education, and with the endowment of these University Professorships, we advance the University’s ability to attract and retain internationally recognized science professors to help ensure that the University continues to be one of the greatest educational institutions in the United States,” Saunders said at the time.
“Tom Saunders was a remarkable person,” Jefferson Scholars Foundation President Jimmy Wright said. “He was thoughtful, articulate, willing to listen, and you always knew where he stood, a trait that is increasingly rare. The University and the Jefferson Scholars Foundation have lost one of our most loyal and committed friends.”
A 2021 UVA Today article noted the impact of the family’s giving across Grounds, which included Tom Saunders’ leadership roles in multiple capital campaigns and substantial support for entities including Darden, the College of Arts & Sciences, the Jefferson Scholars Foundation, University Athletics and various key areas of strategic importance.
Saunders co-chaired the University’s first $1 billion campaign in 1995 with fellow alumni Joshua P. Darden Jr. and Edward C. Mitchell Jr. With his wife, Saunders served as a member of the 1995 Campaign Executive Committee, and they funded and planned the campaign kickoff gala on the Lawn, which is one of the most memorable events in the University’s history. Saunders also served on the Campaign Executive Committee for the University’s Knowledge is Power campaign. With their daughter, Calvert, they established the Saunders Professors Fund in the early 2000s, an innovative challenge gift that helped to create nine new professorships in the schools of Education and Human Development, Nursing, and Architecture.
A former partner and managing director of Morgan Stanley, Saunders was a Wall Street innovator, known for his pioneering use of techniques including applying the “Green Shoe” provision to IPOs to help satisfy demand and using simultaneous offerings to allow for concurrent investment participation in the world’s biggest stock exchanges. He was the founder of the private equity firm Saunders Karp & Megrue, and later served as CEO of Ivor & Co. LLC, and the Ivor Foundation, a private investment firm and family foundation. Through its philanthropy, the family has supported numerous initiatives for educational institutions in Virginia and New York, and for the United States Marine Corps.
In 2008, President George W. Bush awarded Tom and Jordan Saunders a National Humanities Medal for their contributions. The couple received the award for what the NEH described as their “wise leadership and philanthropy on behalf of higher education, the study of art and greater understanding of American history.”
Following his death, tributes to Saunders poured in. The Thomas Jefferson Foundation, where Saunders served as a former trustee and board chairman, noted the support he provided for Monticello’s scholarly efforts and for grounds enhancements around Monticello, including the popular Saunders-Monticello multi-use trail. Leslie Green Bowman, president of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, said Saunders “never ceased thinking about ways to advance our mission.”
“Tom Saunders’ contributions to UVA and Darden are impossible to calculate,” Darden Dean Scott Beardsley said. “He improved Darden’s trajectory through his leadership and service over the 55 years since his graduation. We mourn his passing and are grateful for his uncommon vision, wise stewardship and generous spirit.”
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business prepares responsible global leaders through unparalleled transformational learning experiences. Darden’s graduate degree programs (MBA, MSBA and Ph.D.) and Executive Education & Lifelong Learning programs offered by the Darden School Foundation set the stage for a lifetime of career advancement and impact. Darden’s top-ranked faculty, renowned for teaching excellence, inspires and shapes modern business leadership worldwide through research, thought leadership and business publishing. Darden has Grounds in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C., area and a global community that includes 18,000 alumni in 90 countries. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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