They said they wanted to leave a legacy, and Judge Carlton Sanders and his wife Sue have left their mark on higher education in Southern Indiana.
The Lanesville couple have given more than $3 million to their alma matter, Indiana University Southeast, and have also financially supported Ivy Tech Community College of Southern Indiana.
They credit their post-retirement monetary success to fortuitous investments, and yet it’s the students and faculty at local educational institutions that have had the good fortune of being blessed with the philanthropy of the Sanders.
And the former Harrison County judge knows first-hand how important and liberating a solid education can be.
“No one in my family had gone to school prior to myself,” he said. “So when I finished my undergraduate courses, it made me feel quite good frankly.”
Carlton Sanders attended the IU Southeast campus in Jeffersonville when it was located at Warder Park. Sue Sanders attended the Floyd County campus, and they both have fond memories of their time at the university.
“We chose IUS because we love IUS, and we have ties to IUS,” Carlton Sanders said. “It gave so much to us.”
The couple understands the importance of having a four-year university close to home. Carlton Sanders said he wouldn’t have been able to have afforded to attend the IU Bloomington campus, and that IU Southeast allowed him to further his education and realize his potential.
After their retirements, the couple focused on boosting IU Southeast. Both business graduates, the Sanders began with an endowment to bolster the IUS School of Business.
About a decade ago, the Sanders Chair position was established through a donation by the couple, and that slot has been filled by Uric Dufrene for the past several years.
In addition to instructing students, Dufrene has contributed to educating the public about business through lectures, annual financial updates and media commentary.
“He exceeds anything we’d ever hoped for,” Carlton Sanders said.
Dufrene was recently promoted to Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at IU Southeast, and the search is on to find his replacement for the Sanders Chair position.
The donations to IU Southeast by the Sanders didn’t stop with the endowment for a business chair.
A $300,000 gift from the couple allowed the Sanders Speakers Series to launch in 2008. Several nationally-recognized people have spoken on campus during the series, which has helped to bring recognition to IU Southeast.
Recently Oakland Athletics’ general manager Billy Beane spoke on campus, and other guests of the speaker series have included Ben and Jerry’s co-founder Jerry Greenfield and national economist Arthur B. Laffer.
Sue Sanders said the giving goal has been to have a mass effect on IU Southeast.
“We’ve always taken the stance that we’d like to help multiple people,” she said. “Scholarships are nice, but they don’t help as many people.”
But wait, there’s more.
In 2010, the Sanders Financial Markets Lab opened following another donation from the couple. Jay White, dean of the IU Southeast School of Business, said the lab has provided students with enhanced options for learning on a variety of platforms.
The lab offers hands-on experience for business students along with real time financial analysis and statistics.
“If you look at the gift that created this lab and the speaker series, both really are community assets,” White said.
“It’s helped raise the profile of the campus to be quite honest with you.”
But we’re still not done tallying the donations.
The Sanders recently contributed $500,000 that will be earmarked for an expansion of the IU Southeast nursing lab so that more students can be accepted into the program.
“Right now they’re having to turn down so many applications because they don’t have the room” Sue Sanders said.
In addition to giving of their own means, the Sanders have headed fundraising efforts for the campus.
Nearing their 40th wedding anniversary, the couple doesn’t have children, but they elected to leave a legacy in a way that will potentially impact thousands of young minds.
But to them, philanthropy isn’t about how much money you can give, it’s about service and a desire to help others.
“You don’t have to give $1 million dollars,” Sue Sanders said. “I think that’s what people think about with philanthropy, is a big check, but you don’t have to do that.”
This article originally appeared in the July 2013 issue of Southern Indiana Business Source. Pick up a copy at local businesses throughout Southern Indiana.