Family partners to assist post-service soldiers and their families effectively renegotiate their places in American society
Retired Colonel Duane Saunders and his wife, Bonnie, Eden Prairie, Minnesota, have given $225,000 to Kansas State University’s Office of Military and Veteran Affairs (OMVA) to create the Colonel H. Duane Saunders Executive Directorship. This support will advance K-State’s innovative work in serving military-connected students and veterans who are transitioning from active duty service to higher education, post-service careers and community engagement.
The Saunders, foundational supporters of OMVA’s research and outreach, made the gift to provide administrative support to the executive director. This gift helps ensure K-State continues to grow as a military-inclusive university and leader in developing evidence-based practices to encourage resilience and success among veterans pursuing a university education and civilian career.
Duane Saunders was raised in Downs, Kansas, and graduated in 1961 from K-State’s College of Arts and Sciences with a degree in physical education. After graduation, he was commissioned into the Army and attended physical therapy school at the Mayo Clinic where he met Bonnie, his wife. Following active duty, Duane transferred into the Army Medical Specialist Corps and served 20 years in the active reserves. In 1981, he graduated with a Master of Science from the College of Education in adult and occupational education at K-State. He also established a physical therapy business and health care company. Duane retired from the Army Reserves in 1995.
Duane serves as a KSU Foundation trustee and is an Alumni Fellow of the College of Arts and Sciences. He and Bonnie are dedicated K-State supporters with contributions to the OMVA, the Saunders Barracks, an endowed Saunders Military Excellence Fund, the Saunders Sports Medicine Center in Vanier Family Football Complex, campus scholarships and are Alumni Association lifetime members.
“Because of Art DeGroat’s enthusiasm and pursuit of excellence, K-State’s Office of Military and Veteran Affairs has become a national leader in bridging the unique culture of military-connected students and veterans to the university and civilian workforce,” said Duane Saunders. “K-State has — with its committed leadership — taken a whole-of-university approach to welcoming veterans and helping them transition to their next life mission. Bonnie and I are pleased to continue our support of the university and the courageous people the OMVA serves.”
“The transition from active duty to civilian career,” said K-State President Richard Myers, “is a whole-life transformation. It requires courage and a community who supports soldiers and their families as they navigate the terrain. Because of the inspired generosity of people like Duane and Bonnie Saunders, the K-State family is a unique and supportive community for all K-Staters.”
“Duane Saunders was my first mentor and consistent donor in support of OMVA,” said Arthur S. DeGroat, Ed.D., OMVA executive director and founder. “Military service, with properly supported transition, can turn a life around. Duane and Bonnie change lives as they partner to assist post-service soldiers and their families effectively renegotiate their places in American society.”
“As a student, I had the opportunity to work with OMVA, and it prepared me for my professional life after the military,” said Richard Pearson, 2017 marketing graduate from the College of Business Administration. “After moving to K-State, I realized how impactful my enlisted military experience was. It did not shape me as much as primed and prepared me to take on and execute tasks with confidence. People like Duane and Bonnie — great alumni — support K-State in developing veterans as leaders.”
As K-State’s strategic partner for philanthropy, the KSU Foundation inspires and guides philanthropy toward university priorities to boldly advance K-State family. The foundation is leading Innovation and Inspiration: The Campaign for Kansas State University to raise $1.4 billion for student success, faculty development, facility enhancement and programmatic success. Visit www.ksufoundation.org for more information.