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franklin county times

UNA names business, technology college in honor of big benefactor

A $3.5-million gift from the Sanders family, formerly of Russellville, has led to the University of North Alabama naming its business college in the family’s honor.

The UNA Board of Trustees, during a special called meeting at the end of January, unanimously approved the naming of the Sanders College of Business and Technology.

“We celebrate this new relationship with the Sanders family and welcome the opportunity to officially name the Sanders College of Business and Technology,” announced UNA President Dr. Ken Kitts. “Generous gifts such as this from the Sanders family are meaningful on a campus of UNA’s size simply because they make a significant impact for generations of students and faculty to come.”

Horace Sanders and his wife Mary Jane owned and operated Russellville Hospital from the late 1960s until 1973, when they sold the facility to Humana Hospital. The couple remained in Russellville for another decade.

They were members of First Presbyterian Church until they moved. Horace Sanders was a member of the water board as well as of the local chapter of the Civitan Club.

He worked as a CPA in healthcare consulting for Ernst & Ernst, predecessor of E&Y, in Huntsville. He left the firm and did a leverage buyout purchase of the local hospital in Russellville – from the local group of doctors who owned it – in August 1968, just before the wave of hospital management companies began consolidating the industry.

He sold the hospital to Humana in 1973, and he and wife Mary Jane retired. They remained in Russellville until moving back to Birmingham in late 1983.

Generosity and giving have been a lifelong calling for the Sanders, according to their youngest son Bill. “This gift is an opportunity to give back to the community from where it all came from,” he said. “The majority of the gifting my parents have made has been with Christian missions, but this was meeting a need in the northwest Alabama area that has been very special to them.”

Sanders is the executor of his father’s estate, and he said the planning to make a gift like this had been in the works for more than four decades. UNA’s College of Business and Technology, along with its MBA program, are aligned with Horace Sanders’ vocations of business and accounting.

“The College has the largest MBA program in the state, and when we learned of the years of funding issues that had plagued UNA, it made our gift even more significant,” noted Bill Sanders said – referring to Project 208, the funding initiative that dates back to 2017, and President Kitts’ and others’ efforts to create a more equitable funding model for institutes of higher education in Alabama.

“There is a lot of merit to a more level playing field for funding, and it is something we as a state should consider doing,” Bill Sanders added.

The naming was official upon board approval, and a ceremony will be scheduled for a later date. In the meantime, the Sanders College of Business and Technology continues to innovate and engage students through a variety of workforce-focused programs.

“The Sanders College of Business and Technology is an innovative and evolving College at UNA,” said Dr. Ross Alexander, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.

“From the Master of Health Administration to the Bachelor of Business Administration, the College offers students a variety of programs to prepare them for the workforce.

“This tremendous gift from the Sanders family ensures we can continue to provide high-quality academic programming for generations.”

Dr. Greg Carnes, dean of the Sanders College of Business and Technology, said he is overwhelmed by the gift and the generosity of the Sanders family. “Our mission in the college is to prepare students to be excellent professionals and citizens,” he said. “This gift will provide the margin of excellence that is needed to ensure that we have the resources to meet this mission.

“Excellent education transforms lives,” he added, “and the Sanders family has invested in the lives of our business and technology students for the current and future generations.”

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