Ann Sanders, Longtime School of Government Supporter, Passes Away at 96

The UNC School of Government mourns the recent passing of Margaret “Ann” Sanders, wife of longtime School faculty member and two-time director John L. Sanders. Sanders passed away at the age of 96 on July 4, 2023 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. A private memorial service to celebrate her memory will take place in early August. 

She graduated from John Marshall High School in 1944 and attended Meredith College, where she met her spouse, John Sanders, in 1944. They married in 1954 and spent almost all their married life in Chapel Hill.

Sanders had a lifelong admiration of history, particularly North Carolina’s history. Along with her husband, Sanders was a strong proponent of preserving that history. She was one of the first employees of the Hall of History, now the North Carolina Museum of History, and served as a staff member of the North Carolina Department of Archives and History. Additionally, Sanders donated many valuable manuscripts to both the Southern Historical and North Carolina Collection. As a member of the North Carolina State Capitol Foundation, Sanders worked with the group to secure necessary funding for the continual restoration of the Capitol building in Raleigh.

“Ann Sanders served the Institute of Government and the University in important ways, and both institutions have benefited greatly by her support and commitment,” said former School of Government Dean Mike Smith. Both Ann and John Sanders were committed to the former Institute of Government’s service to North Carolina, and Ann’s service has been recognized by naming the School of Government’s rare book room in her honor. 

The two commissioned the creation of a ceremonial staff for the University’s 1993 bicentennial celebration that the faculty marshal carries at commencement each year and other important events. It consists of a sterling silver replica of the Old Well mounted on an oak shaft from timber that was salvaged from the renovation of the 1822 section of Old West residence hall.

 Gene Davis, former member of the UNC Board of Trustees and current member of the Board of Governors, shared the following reflection: "Ann was a true partner to John in every sense of the word. When John wasn’t in the office, they were always together. They literally enjoyed doing everything together - dining together (alone or with friends, faculty, and students), reading the newspaper together at the dining room table, collecting art together (they loved nothing more than finding a treasure that no one else knew was a treasure), driving across North Carolina together and stopping at small towns along the way.  She was a solid rock for him, and he cherished her always." 

The School fondly remembers Sanders as integral to building its own success and in preserving important state history throughout the last six decades. “She was an important part of the School’s family for many years,” said Dean Aimee N. Wall. “Our thoughts are with their children, grandchild, and other family members.”

To celebrate her legacy, donations are asked to be made to the North Carolina State Capitol Foundation.