Alabama Men's Hall of Fame Selects New Inductees
By Michael D. Morgan
Two illustrious business leaders will formally join the Alabama Men’s Hall of Fame at an induction ceremony on September 19.
Michael E. Stephens (1943-2017) was born in Selma and, as a champion for those with physical disabilities, founded the Lakeshore Foundation in 1984. In 1970 he suffered a spinal cord injury from a diving accident. That injury, and the recovery process, changed the focus of Stephens's life and ultimately had a profound impact on his personal, professional, civic, and philanthropic activities. After intensive rehabilitation during which he learned to walk again, he returned to the University of Montevallo in 1973 to complete a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business. He then went on to earn a Master of Science Degree from the School of Health Professions at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. In 1975 Mr. Stephens became executive director of Lakeshore Hospital, a small rehabilitation facility. Based on his experiences he was determined to eliminate the fragmentation of services that often hampered the recovery of people with physical disabilities. During the next decade, he transformed Lakeshore Hospital into a model organization for providing sports, recreation, fitness, and research programs for those with physical disabilities. Because of this success, it was designated as an official US Olympic and Paralympic training site. Stephens was significantly involved with the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), serving as a trustee, a member of its Leadership Council, and a member of the USOC Chairmans Circle. The Stephens College of Business at the University of Montevallo is named in his honor.
Harris Saunders Jr. (1925-2018) was born in Birmingham and attended Ramsey High School. He entered the United States Navy’s V12 program at Georgia Institute of Technology and received his Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering in 1945. Saunders knew from an early age that one day he would go to work for the family business – a truck leasing company. Over a forty-year span, he worked to build Saunders Leasing System into the third-largest truck-leasing and truck services company in the United States. He was the chairman of the board when the company, publicly traded on the American Stock Exchange, was sold to Ryder System, Inc. of Miami in 1986. Mr. Saunders served on the corporate boards of SouthTrust Bank and the Energen Corporation. He was also the founding chairman of the Truck Rental and Leasing Association, past chairman of the American Truck Historical Association, chairman of the United States Business and Industrial Council, and served on the Birmingham Salvation Army Board. Saunders was a generous patron of the Birmingham Museum of Art and the Alabama Symphony Orchestra.
The induction ceremony luncheon is set for Tuesday, Sept. 19, at 11:30 a.m. at The Club in Birmingham. For further information and reservations, call 205-706-1289.
Founded by the Alabama legislature in 1987, the hall recognizes men "whose lives have impacted the state, nation and world." Honorees must have been deceased for two years. Hall board members represent Alabama's seven congressional districts. The Birmingham Women's Committee of 100 sponsors the program. The hall is located on the second floor of Harwell Goodwin Davis Library at Samford. The Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame is located at the University of West Alabama in Livingston.