2020 Mentor Awards – Honorees

Major General Mary Saunders, USAF (Ret) joined the administrative staff as the Executive Director of the Leadership Institute at Texas Woman’s University (TWU), the largest university, primarily for women in the United States.  She establish a program to prepare students to succeed in an increasingly global community.  Her focus has been leadership development, health and wellness, and economic security.  Over 100 students have graduated from the program.

Major General Mary Saunders

Recently, Maj. General Saunders accepted a new position as the special Assistant to the Chancellor and President of TWU.  In 2018, she established the Institute for Women’s Leadership serving the State of Texas as a resource for scholarship and research.  She directed the renovation of Old Main, the first building on the TWU Denton campus.  The Jane Nelson Institute for Women’s Leadership include: The Center for Women Entrepreneurs, The Center for Politics and Public Policy, the Center for Student Leadership, and an exhibit hall currently featuring exhibits in celebration of the 19th amendment to the Constitution and the women’s right to vote.  

Prior to joining the TWU administration, she was the Vice Director for the Defense Logistics Agency in Virginia with a workforce of over 22,000 military and civilian personnel states in the United States.  Two years earlier, she served in Washington D.C. at the Pentagon as the second female African American in the Air Force selected to the rank of general, and as the first female general officer selected as the Director of Transportation providing guidance for 32,000 active duty and civilian personnel with a budget of $3.8 billion.

She was named a Distinguished Alumna of TWU, and she was inducted into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame.  She received the “Maura women Helping Women” award from the Dallas Women’s Foundation honoring women who have improved the lives of women and girls in North Texas.  

Maj. General Saunders was born in Nacogdoches, TX, and she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Social Work from TWU and her Master of Arts in Guidance and Counseling from Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey.  She attended the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, and  completed the National Security Leadership course at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.  She was a member of the Leadership Development Program at the Center for Creative Leadership in North Carolina, and she is one of thirty women nationwide to be selected as a graduate of Leadership America.

She received more than a dozen military awards and recognition during her 34 years in the Air Force with 17 assignments in the United States and overseas. She currently serves as a Council Member on the Texas Women’s Foundation, and she has presented more than 300 speeches to veterans groups, businesses, city, and state organizations.Two Air Force leadership awards are annually presented in Maj. Gen. Saunders’ name.  They include the “Excellence in Leadership award Scholarship” presented to a Federal Civil Servant employee and the “Air Force Logistics Officers Association the Distinguished Service Chapter awardsExcellence in Leadership Award scholarship.” She attributes her success to tenacity, the courage to take risks, and the core values of the Air Force: integrity first; service before self; and excellence in everything!  She continues to serve as an exemplary leader, accomplished professional, role model and mentor for the next generation of Texas leaders!