Saunders gives $7.5 million more to RIT

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Philip Saunders’ donation to RIT will enable a major renovation and expansion at the College of Business that bears his name.
(Photo credit: A. Sue Weisler/RIT)

Philip Saunders’ donations to Rochester Institute of Technology now top $25 million. On Tuesday he announced a $7.5 million donation to power growth at the Saunders College of Business.

The gift—another contribution to Transforming RIT: The Campaign for Greatness, a $1 billion university fundraising effort—will be used enable a major renovation and expansion of the facilities at the Saunders College of Business. It will add space to the college for research in business disciplines, multidisciplinary student and faculty work, and experiential learning projects.

The expansion will include learning laboratories, collaborative student spaces, and room for the addition of the hospitality and service innovation programs at the college. New event spaces that will accommodate business conferences and speakers are also in the plans.

“My love for RIT goes back many years,” Saunders said in a statement. “I feel so good about the college. I am pleased that we are going to make another expansion here. This money is going to a good cause and will take Saunders College of Business and move it to the next level.” 

Undergraduate and graduate majors in hospitality and tourism management and graduate majors in service leadership and innovation, and human resource development, as well as advanced certificates in organizational learning and service leadership and innovation, have transitioned into Saunders College from the College of Engineering Technology. The programs have contributed to a 10 percent growth in enrollment for Saunders College, RIT says. 

Saunders College enrolls more than 2,300 undergraduate and graduate students who are in programs across RIT campuses here and overseas. Saunders College works with RIT’s Venture Creations incubator and the Albert J. Simone Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship to integrate business education with RIT’s technical and creative programs. 

“Saunders College has made significant strides over the past decade,” said Jacqueline Mozrall, Saunders College dean. “E. Philip Saunders helped initiate this unprecedented period of progress when he placed his trust in us by attaching his name to our business college in 2006. Phil invested in us, but has also committed his time and energy.”

She credited Saunders for his active role in helping the college pursue its mission and engage with students, alumni, faculty and staff. 

In 2006, Saunders’ $13 million gift to the university boosted the Saunders College’s vision. Four years later he pledged $5 million and challenged Saunders alumni and friends to raise $15 million. He also funded the E. Philip Saunders Endowed Business Scholarship. Named RIT’s 2017 Volunteer of the Year, Saunders received the Herbert W. Vanden Brul Entrepreneurial Award in 2005 and the Nathaniel Rochester Society award in 2011. 

A serial entrepreneur, Saunders’ ventures are diverse. Starting with his father’s gas station in the late 1950s, Saunders grew it into the Truckstops of America chain, and he later founded Travel Ports of America Inc. which merged with Ryder’s TravelCenters of America. He bought W.W. Griffith Oil, which he later sold to Rochester Gas and Electric, and launched the Sugar Creek chain of retail gas and convenience stores. Tops Markets bought the Sugar Creek stores in 2000.

Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor.

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