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In Memoriam | Spring 2023

In Memoriam: Thomas Alonza Saunders III

Remembering Darden alum’s impact on UVA, Monticello and beyond

When you’re in Charlottesville, you know you’ll see the name Jefferson everywhere you turn. But if you pay attention, you’re bound to notice another name: Saunders.

Thomas Alonza Saunders III Gage Skidmore

As a member of the UVA Board of Visitors, chair of the Darden School Foundation Board of Trustees and chair of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, philanthropist Thomas Alonza Saunders III (Darden ’67 CM) made several transformative donations to the University of Virginia and Monticello throughout his life. Saunders died at his home in Palm Beach, Florida, on Sept. 9, 2022, at age 86.

Born in Ivor, Virginia, Saunders earned his bachelor’s in electrical engineering from Virginia Military Institute in 1958. He served in the U.S. Army before earning his M.B.A. at Darden—where he was a member of the Raven Society—in 1967, kicking off a relationship with the UVA and Charlottesville communities that would last the rest of his life.

Saunders served on UVA’s Board of Visitors and played a leading role in establishing UVIMCO, which manages endowments for the University and its foundations. He remained active at Darden, where he was also a founding member of the Darden Principal Donor Society. He also helped lead Darden’s move to self-sufficiency and independence. In 1996 the school named its main building Saunders Hall in honor of him and his wife, Jordan, and their many donations over the years. In 2005, he received the school’s prestigious Charles C. Abbott Award.

From 2002 to 2008, Saunders chaired the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, where he negotiated the acquisition of Montalto, the mountain overlooking Monticello. A lead donor for the digitization of Thomas Jefferson’s retirement papers, he also funded the Saunders-Monticello Trail and the Saunders Bridge, which serves as Monticello’s main vehicular entrance.

After earning his M.B.A., Saunders began his career at Morgan Stanley in New York City, working his way up to partner and managing director, and earning a reputation as a Wall Street innovator. He later founded his own private equity business, Saunders Karp & Megrue, which invested in companies including Dollar Tree, Inc., whose board he served on for nearly three decades. He also spent 20 years as CEO of Ivor & Co., a private family investment firm.

“He was an innovative thinker and exceptional leader,” said longtime McIntire School of Commerce Dean Carl P. Zeithaml. “Tom had a truly profound impact on many aspects of the University as he was always generous with his time, ideas, business acumen and personal resources. … He became a wonderful friend and mentor to me, always insightful, witty and kind. I respected him very much.”

Saunders was active in conservative politics. He spent a decade as chairman of conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation, and in 2018 received the institution’s Clare Boothe Luce Award in recognition of his leadership and commitment to the conservative movement.

Survivors include his wife of 61 years, Jordan; two children, including daughter Calvert Saunders Moore (Col ’90 CM); and four grandchildren, including Rebecca Carter Saunders Moore (Col ’18 CM), George Saunders Van Rensselaer Moore (Col ’22 CM), and Mary Schuyler Jordan Moore (Col ’25).