Two illustrious business leaders were inducted to the Alabama Men’s Hall of Fame at a recent ceremony. The Lakeshore Foundation founder Michael Stephens and long-time truck leasing company owner Harris Saunders were both posthumously honored at the event, which happened Tuesday, September 19, at The Club.
Michael E. Stephens (1943-2017) was born in Selma and, as a champion for those with physical disabilities, created 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 to complete a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business, followed by a Master of Science Degree from the School of Health Professions at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. In 1975, Stephens became executive director of Lakeshore Hospital. During the next decade, he transformed the small rehabilitation facility into a model organization for providing sports, recreation, fitness, and research programs for those with physical disabilities. 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.
Harris Saunders Jr. (1925-2018) was born in Birmingham, attended Ramsey High School, and received his Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. 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 was sold to Ryder System, Inc. 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, and chairman of the United States Business and Industrial Council. Saunders was a generous patron of the Birmingham Museum of Art and the Alabama Symphony Orchestra.
The Alabama Men’s Hall of Fame (AMHOF) was established by the Alabama legislature in 1987 to recognize men "whose lives have impacted the state, nation and world." Honorees must have been deceased for two years. AMHOF is overseen by a board of directors selected representing Alabama's seven congressional districts. The Birmingham Women's Committee of 100 partners with the board to sponsor the induction program. AMHOF is open to the public and is located on the second floor of Harwell Goodwin Davis Library at Samford University.Nominations are now open for induction in 2024. The deadline for submission is March 15, 2024. Additional information is available online at: www.samford.edu/alabama-mens-hall-of-fame/.