Dean College campus

Dean College received a donation of more than $3 million from alumnus and longtime benefactor, Dean R. Sanders ’47, the largest estate gift in the College’s 156-year history.

A past alumni volunteer for the College, with his first gift to Dean dating back to 1951 and after nearly seven decades of loyal support, Mr. Sanders’ tremendous lifetime giving will be recognized with the naming of the Dean R. Sanders ’47 School of Business.

“We are honored to have received a transformational gift which will greatly influence our institutional trajectory. A sincere thank you to Mr. Sanders and his family for the support and trust they have placed in Dean College. As a leader of industry, Mr. Sanders was a man of distinction who often spoke of the influence his Dean education had on his business success. This landmark gift will add great stature to the programs in our School of Business and enrich our delivery of The Dean Difference to current and future Dean students,” says Dean College President Dr. Paula M. Rooney.

After serving in the United States Army, Mr. Sanders spent his entire working life at The Espoma Company. He transformed the small company his father started into the lawn and garden industry's leading organic plant food manufacturer. Dean was President of the company from 1980 until 2003, when leadership transitioned to the next generation of his family.

The Espoma Company began production in 1929. In the late 1940s, the company's number one selling product was created: Holly-tone®, the first organically balanced plant food. Espoma now offers over 70 organic products that cover every plant nutritional need. Today, the company’s brands are well recognized and carried by every major distributor and retailer in the United States.

“Our family is extremely proud that the College is recognizing the generosity of my uncle with the naming of the Sanders School of Business,” says Serge Brunner. “My uncle was an entrepreneur who dedicated his career to growing his family business. He firmly believed in the Mission of Dean and we are all excited to witness the impact this gift will have on the next generation of students at Dean College.”

The Dean College School of Business currently has more than 500 full-time students. With programs ranging from Business Management, Finance, Criminal Justice and Homeland Security Management and Marketing to Sport Management, Esports Management, Athletic Coaching and Recreation Management, Sports Broadcasting and Communications, Dean’s business program offers a wide variety of options that attract students in significant numbers. Dean offers a strong foundation in business theory with exceptional hands-on experience and practical application. All students must complete at least one internship prior to graduation, working for strategic partners including Dean’s exclusive academic partnership with Kraft Sports + Entertainment.

“At Dean College, we believe that the true success of the Sanders School of Business comes from the programs and faculty and staff who support those endeavors. The enhanced stature of associating the School of Business with the Sanders name and this successful family business, will carry us to the next level of the complexities of business management education,” says Dr. P. Gerard Shaw, Dean of the School of Business. 

Mr. Sanders passed away on March 11, 2020, in McDaniel, Maryland. He was born in Millville, New Jersey on August 24, 1929, and attended Dean Academy from 1945-1947. "The significant challenges of the past year have reinforced the value of the Dean education. We are incredibly humbled and enormously grateful for this generous gift from Dean Sanders. Mr. Sanders was a proud alumnus, successful business owner and we are proud to name the School of Business in his honor and memory,” says Coleen Resnick, Vice President of Institutional Advancement.

Learn more about the Dean R. Sanders ’47 School of Business.