Marshall Saunders Jr., 80, of Coronado, California, passed away on December 27, 2019. He was born & grew up in Waco, Texas and was a 1957 graduate of Waco High School. His parents were the late Marshall & Lucille Saunders of Waco. In high school Saunders participated in football and other sports and was nicknamed ‘Swoon Saunders’ for his tall good looks. His parents were co-founders of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church where Saunders was an active member during his youth. The day after high school graduation Saunders caught the Greyhound bus for Boise, Idaho, where he would spend his college summers working for the US Forest Service; cutting trails, cleaning camp grounds and helping to prevent forest fires. He was a 1961 graduate of the University of Texas Austin with a degree in Economics. After college graduation Saunders attended the U.S. Navy Officer Candidate School (OCS), graduating as an Ensign. He was first stationed in Virginia and served on the USS Boxer. He was on active duty during the Cuban missile crisis, 1962. With a stroke of good fortune he was later transferred to Coronado where he finished out his Naval service. In Coronado he met the love of his life, Pamela Spence. There he and Pamela married, raised a family and, after a career in commercial property development, they launched a lifetime of active philanthropy as Saunders searched for ways to make the world a better place.
In the early 1990s, he discovered an advocacy organization called RESULTS, that works to create the political will to end hunger and poverty. Through RESULTS, he learned the power that citizens have to make a difference by effectively engaging their government. As a volunteer with RESULTS, he took part in campaigns that increased U.S. funding for child survival activities around the world, programs that would eventually save the lives of tens of millions of children.
A leader in the community, Saunders was named Rotarian of the year in 1991 by the Coronado Rotary chapter and received the Rotarian Governor’s trophy for Service Above Self in 1992-93. He also received the Rotary Foundation citation for Meritorious Service, and he spearheaded the formation of the first Rotary Club in St. Petersburg, Russia.
While volunteering with RESULTS, Saunders learned about microcredit, an effective poverty-reducing strategy that uses small loans given to poor women to start or expand small businesses that lift their families out of poverty. The concept was pioneered by a Bangladeshi economist, Muhammad Yunus, who would later receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his work with the Grameen Bank.
Seeking to start his own micro-lending program in Mexico, Saunders traveled to Bangladesh to learn more about the concept from Yunus himself. In 1999, he launched Grameen de la Frontera (GDLF) in Mexico. GDLF has since provided small loans that have transformed the lives of thousands of poor women and their families. Saunders was one of only six recipients of the Grameen Humanitarian Award.
After seeing the climate change documentary An Inconvenient Truth in 2006, Saunders realized his work to help the poor would be wasted if a changing climate made their homes unlivable by rising fossil fuel emissions. He spent a year delivering presentations about climate change and the personal choices needed to address the problem. During that time, the U.S. Congress extended a law that gave $18 billion in subsidies to oil and coal companies.
He quickly realized that the actions he was suggesting, while essential, were not a match for the problem. So in October of 2007, Saunders launched Citizens’ Climate Lobby based on the successful methodology of RESULTS, to generate the political will for climate solutions by training and supporting citizens to effectively lobby their government. Since then, CCL has grown to more than 550 chapters worldwide — 460 in the U.S. — with 180,000 supporters. CCL was the leading advocacy group supporting the introduction this year of a bipartisan carbon-pricing bill, which now has 75 sponsors and cosponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“To say that he made the most of his time on this earth would be an understatement,” said CCL Executive Director Mark Reynolds. “In addition to being the most kind and generous person I’ve ever known, he was also a visionary, someone who saw the things that are broken in our world and then set out to fix them.”
Saunders is survived by his wife Pamela, and two adult children. Services will be held on January 25, 2019, at 1:00 p.m. at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Coronado. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to Citizens’ Climate Education (www.citizensclimatelobby.org/