Elliott F. “Eli” Sanders ’54 always credited Wofford College for helping him build a successful business and life.
Richard Johnson, Wofford’s director of athletics, says Sanders gave back as much as he got.
“A man of enviable character, he was simply a wonderful human being,” Johnson says. “Generations of Wofford students yet unborn will benefit from his generosity. We shall all miss him greatly.”
Sanders died May 6 at his home on James Island, South Carolina.
A native of Blacksville, South Carolina, Sanders joined the U.S. Army before finishing high school and served for about a year in Germany as World War II was coming to an end. When he returned from the war, he attended Georgia Military College, where he completed his high school studies and began work on his college degree.
Wofford lured him away with the offer of a football scholarship. He scored the Terriers’ lone touchdown in a 1953 game against Auburn University. Sanders was inducted into the Wofford College Athletics Hall of Fame in 1991.
After graduating, Sanders taught school and coached before moving into the highway construction industry. In 1962 he and his brother, Jimmy, co-founded Sanders Brothers Construction Co. in North Charleston with the loan of a single dump truck.
Sanders was a generous annual supporter of the college, and in 2006 he funded the first-floor renovation of Main Building. He also funded the construction of the plaza in Gibbs Stadium, which was dedicated in his honor in October 2021.
In addition to his philanthropy, Sanders also donated his time, including serving on the Terrier Club Board of Directors.
“Eli has been one of the most genuine and generous supporters of Wofford athletics through the years,” says Luke Feisal, associate athletics director of athletics development. “He was a true champion for the Terriers.”
In 2007, the Southern Conference honored Sanders with a Distinguished Service Award. That same year, Sanders’ wife, Helen, and sons, Greg and Ell, established the Eli F. Sanders Endowed Football Scholarship Fund in his honor. The scholarship is awarded to deserving student-athletes on the college’s football team who demonstrate outstanding character, good citizenship and leadership.
Johnson had a conversation with President Emeritus Joe Lesesne after learning of Sanders’ death.
“I think he (Lesesne) said it best: ‘“He was the most genuine and generous person imaginable. He was a doer who made not a ripple in the process, the definition of a super person,’” Johnson says.