WASHINGTON—Thomas A. Saunders III, former chairman of The Heritage Foundation’s Board of Trustees, died Sept. 9 at his home in Florida. Heritage Foundation Founder Ed Feulner and Board of Trustees Chairman Barb Van Andel-Gaby made the following statement:
“Tough-minded and principled, Tom Saunders was a hugely successful businessman. He was also one of the most deeply patriotic men we’ve ever known. And he never missed an opportunity to exercise that patriotism. For example, when he was preparing for an award ceremony with the New York Historical Society, he noticed some unsightly scaffolding. Naturally, he decided that the best way to hide it would be to drape it with his own oversized American flag.
“Much of his extensive philanthropic work reflected his patriotism. For example, he and his wife, Mary Jordan Horner Saunders, the daughter of the late Marine Corps Major Gen. Matthew C. Horner, endowed the Matthew C. Horner chair at the Marine Corps University.
“Under his leadership as chairman of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, he brought the Monticello plantation up to world standards for historic sites. He also led the drive to build a replica of Jefferson’s library on the campus of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. Also evident in that project was his puckish sense of humor. He agreed to the library project on one condition: his memorial plaque include the words, ‘Virginia Military Institute Class of 1958,’ a hat tip to his alma mater even in the midst of its rival, West Point.
“Tom was ever loyal to the Virginia Military Institute and University of Virginia, where he graduated from the Darden School of Business with an MBA in 1967. He served as vice president on VMI’s Board of Visitors for many years. UVA’s Saunders Hall is named for him, and in 2021, his family made a $10 million gift to establishment of UVA’s first-ever endowed university professorships.
“He provided years of loyal leadership to The Heritage Foundation as well. He was elected to our Board of Trustees in 2005. He would go on to serve as chairman of the board for a decade, during which time he helped with the formation of Heritage Action for America. He continued to serve on the board as chairman emeritus until this year.
“In 2008, President George W. Bush presented Tom and Jordan with the National Humanities Medal, the first joint recipients of the honor. He also received the History Makers Award from the New York Historical Society. Heritage recognized Tom with its highest honor, the prestigious Clare Boothe Luce Award, in 2018.
“Tom Saunders’ love of country, his desire to build an America that offered all her citizens freedom, opportunity, and the chance to flourish, made him a perfect leader for Heritage. His wisdom, his humor, and his willingness to go the extra mile for the sake of a cause, made him a joy to work with. We admired him no end and were proud to call him a friend. All of us at Heritage will miss him. Our hearts and prayers are with him and his family.”