Honoring Business Titans

Guest Correspondence

More than the much-anticipated break in summer temperatures, fall is when I begin to look forward to something else. One of the most highly attended events of the year hosted by The Argus Foundation is coming up in November—our signature Lifetime Achievement Awards. In its 15th year, this is an opportunity to celebrate our most valuable resourced—the dedicated business men and women who have shaped Sarasota County into what it is today. This is also a chance to hear the undiscovered stories and feel the history of our great county in a way you don’t normally experience.

Choosing just two honorees each year is a tough decision. We have so many who have given so much to our community. Past award recipients include Rev. Don Roberts, Mabry Carlton, Frederick Derr, William Getzen, Rick Martin, C. Dana Rollings, Ronald Royal and Mary Fran Carroll. Next month, we will honor two additional deserving Sarasota residents—Michael Saunders and a posthumous award to William Merrill, Sr.

Michael Saunders runs the 47th largest real estate brokerage firm per dollar volume in the United States. She is currently celebrating the 40th year of her real estate company, Michael Saunders & Company. She has been a past president of The Argus Foundation and served on the boards of The Gulf Coast Community Foundation, The Education Foundation of Sarasota County, The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, and the Westcoast Black Theatre Troop among many others. Michael has said that she believes success is defined by making a difference in people’s lives. That shines through in all of the former social worker’s endeavors, whether it’s philanthropy or business initiatives. It is a value we can all aspire to. Perform at your best at all times, learn every single day to sharpen your saw, and use those skills to enhance people’s lives, she recommends.  

William Merrill, Sr. passed away in 2014. He raised, with his wonderful wife, three prominent sons who are making significant community contributions professionally and through non-profits. He also had an enormous influence on shaping Sarasota’s legal community having served as president of the Sarasota Bar Association and developing some of our region’s biggest condominium complexes. He was involved with some of the most important land sites in Sarasota County, including what is now the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota, the former Sarasota Quay land and once co-owned the land that was purchased for the Mall at University Town Center. He was a Shriner, a Mason, an Eagle Scout and a chairman of the Boy Scouts of America Troop 90. He was a charter member and Elder at Church of The Palms.

Both award nominees share common values of a philanthropic spirit and dedication to the community with Argus members and its founders, and they have left a lasting legacy on our community that exemplifies the philosophy of service to others in all they have done throughout their lives.

Each year I find myself overwhelmingly proud to be a part of a community with such proven leadership in both the business community and philanthropic community, and look forward to celebrating two more amazing community leaders on November 10. 

Christine Robinson is executive director of The Argus Foundation.

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