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Steve Sauder

Give until it feels good

Group of scholarship students gather in Emporia State University's Sauder Alumni Center

Steve Sauder Continues a Legacy of Giving Started by His Father

Steve credits Emporia State University with giving him many gifts throughout his life. He feels indebted to the university for giving him a degree and assisting him in landing his first job.

Throughout his life, Steve took those gifts and brought them full circle. It is hard to count the number of scholarships and capital projects he has supported at ESU, as well as the number of student-athletes he has cheered on, making him well-known to many generations of Hornets.

The Sauder family name has long been associated with philanthropy at Emporia State University. The Sauders’ support goes back many decades and now involves several generations of the family. For Steve, it all has its roots in what his father, Earl W. Sauder, started.

Earl grew up on a farm near Madison, Kansas. As a teenager in the 1930s, his family’s farm did not escape the economic hardships of the Dustbowl and the Great Depression. It meant Earl could not pursue his dream of attending Emporia State, then called Kansas State Teachers College. Despite that setback, through grit and perseverance, he built a successful career. Many years later, Earl became a part of the Emporia State family, not as a student as he had once hoped to be, but as a supporter of scholarships, capital projects and Hornet Athletics.

At Emporia State, Earl found a community and a place where he could make a difference. It was a relationship that was life-changing for both Earl, the students he supported and Steve and his siblings. “My sister, brother and I think the association with the university added at least ten years, maybe more than that, to his life. It gave him something he needed,” said Steve.

Earl had a close relationship with former ESU Foundation President, Joe Cannon. The two had worked together to raise money to build Presbyterian Manor in Emporia. When Cannon began fundraising to construct a new alumni center, he looked to Earl to lead the way as he had seen him do before. Cannon suggested he make the lead gift to the Sauder Alumni Center as a way to honor his wife, Stelouise, who was ill with Alzheimer’s disease. It was a decision Earl made in consultation with his adult children. “We all thought it was a great idea,” said Steve.

Among the many ways Earl supported ESU philanthropically, one of his most widely known gifts was the creation of the Earl W. Sauder Athletic Scholarship. Earl started the fund to assist and recognize student-athletes with high academic achievement. Awarded to hundreds of student-athletes since 2004, it is a scholarship Steve and his wife, Bobbi, have supported significantly as well.

Every year at the scholarship award luncheon, Steve shares with the recipients his father’s life story and the principles that led him to work hard, build success and use the fruits of his labors to help others.

“I learned a lot of things from my father,” said Steve. “But one of the most important things he taught me is to give until it feels good.”

Steve has given until it feels good, both for him and for all the students whose educational journey was made better because of his support. He hopes others learn from his and his father’s example and see how they too could create their own legacy of support.

“One of the things I ask the students at the scholarship luncheons to consider is giving back when they get their career established,” said Steve. “I ask them to remember somebody helped them. Maybe they can pay it forward.”

Recently, Steve added another notable gift to the Sauder family legacy. Through a trust, Steve and Bobbi are making a planned gift designed to award the Earl W. Sauder Athletic Scholarship and the Bobbi Sauder Student-Athlete Nursing Scholarship long after they are gone.

Through philanthropy, Steve has found a way to honor his family, support those in need, feel good about how he is providing support and encourage others to do the same. “You give because you see a need and you think you can help and that makes you feel good,” said Steve. “It all comes full circle.”