A new endowed dean's chair in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences will support programs focused on innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership for undergraduate and graduate students. The initial investment includes a $1 million gift from CALS alumnus Robert F. Charles Jr. and his wife, Julia M. Charles. The Charles-Sander Dean's Chair will serve as a perpetual fund to attract and retain outstanding deans in the college.
Charles and his wife, who goes by "Judy," are known for their longtime philanthropy and service in communities and universities in Arizona and Colorado. Bob Charles earned a master's degree in horticulture from the UA in 1962 and helped establish the rose garden in Tucson's Gene C. Reid Park, as well as an inmate plant nursery program at the prison in Florence, Arizona. The couple managed the first McDonald's in Boulder, Colorado, which they later owned.
Bob Charles eventually operated 13 McDonald's franchises and is perhaps best known as co-creator of the McDonald's Happy Meal. He pioneered the double drive-through concept, helped institute the use of tray liners for promoting local causes and in-store events, developed a recycling program and co-founded one of the first Ronald McDonald Houses in the U.S. He also founded the McPride program for at-risk high school students and helped found the Imagine! Foundation to support people with developmental disabilities.
Bob Charles served on the UA Graduate Advisory Board and was involved with the UA's Campaign Arizona fundraising effort. He also is a former member of the UA Foundation Board of Trustees and former president of the UA Alumni Association National Board of Directors. He and Judy are members of The President's Club and the Old Main Society, which are UA Foundation recognition societies.
The name of the new chair also honors Eugene G. Sander, the 20th president of the UA and former dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Sander's tenure at the UA spanned 25 years, beginning with his arrival in 1987 to serve as vice provost and dean of CALS and culminating with his service as UA president from 2011-2012.
Sander also served as executive vice president and provost of the UA from July 2007 to April 2008 and as vice president for university outreach from 2006 to 2009. He was named a fellow of the National Academy for the Advancement of Science in 2011.
As CALS dean, Sander brought a greater emphasis on biotechnology to the college from his experience at Texas A&M University as both deputy chancellor for biotechnology development and director of the Institute of Biosciences and Technology. He was responsible for attracting a record number of CALS endowed chairs and professorships — more than 20 — and increased financial contributions to the college through new buildings and programs.
Sander helped establish the Terry Lundgren Center for Retailing in the college's Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences, a partnership between academia and the retailing industry that prepares students with the knowledge, skills and training to lead companies.
"Endowed dean's chairs like this one further the UA's ability to remain competitive because they enhance our ability to recruit and retain world-class faculty leaders and build our university endowment," said UA President Robert C. Robbins. "I am glad that this endowment honors three extraordinary members of the UA community — Bob and Judy Charles and Gene Sander. We are so grateful for everything they have done for this great university and I am thrilled to see that their already impressive legacies will be enhanced in this way."
Shane Burgess, vice president of agriculture, life and veterinary sciences and Cooperative Extension, and dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is the first holder of the Charles-Sander Endowed Dean's Chair.
"I am especially honored to be the first chair holder because of my great respect for all that Gene accomplished as CALS' longest-serving dean, and for all that Bob and Judy have done in their lives that inspires me," Burgess said.
"This chair ensures the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences can recruit outstanding deans who will know from the outset that innovation, integrity and entrepreneurship are not only an expectation, but part of the heritage and tradition of this position. Making a difference for everyone in our college — a difference that will become part of our shared history — is something I wake up every day thinking about. I know Gene Sander did so, also," Burgess said.
"Bob and Judy know that without positive progress there is no leadership, and this carries significant risk. Their incredible gift will help our students become the entrepreneurs and innovators of integrity that our world needs."