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Saunders leads by example

Profile image for By Rachel Mehlhaff / Staff Writer
By Rachel Mehlhaff / Staff Writer

Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Mary Saunders wants to be an example to other women that they are capable of anything.

That’s what she tells the students she interacts with in her role as executive director of the Texas Woman’s University Leadership Institute, which prepares men and women for positions in leadership. 

Saunders was one of five women inducted into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame on Friday.

The Texas Women’s Hall of Fame, founded in 1984, was moved to TWU in 2003. Every two years about five women are inducted.

The other inductees Friday were Harriett O’Neill for public service, Nina Godiwalla for business, Anne Corn for higher education and Barbara Smith Conrad for arts and humanities. Conrad wasn’t able to attend.

O’Neill served in the state court system, including two terms as a justice on the Supreme Court of Texas. Godiwalla is a financial analyst who wrote a book titled Suits: A Woman on Wall Street.

Corn, who has reduced vision, helps people with visual disabilities. Conrad is an opera singer whose story is chronicled in the PBS documentary When I Rise.

Gov. Rick Perry and his wife, Anita, spoke during the induction at TWU.

Anita Perry told attendees the women’s stories are inspiring.

She mentioned a quote from Margaret Thatcher: “If you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.”

“We in Texas have a long history of getting things done,” she said. “Each of the women honored here left a mark. And they left Texas and America a better place to live.”

Rick Perry echoed his wife’s remarks.

Texas women are known for blazing trails, he said.

Saunders looks at her induction as another step in helping students in leadership roles.

During her 34 years of service, Saunders served at the Pentagon as the highest-ranking African-American woman in the Air Force.

Saunders earned her bachelor’s degree in social work from TWU.

After retiring from the military, she decided to come back to TWU to give back, she said.

“I look at myself as an example,” she said. “People in your life help mold you and make you.”

Saunders said she is glad the Hall of Fame exhibit is established to recognize women because it hasn’t always been that way.

Some previous inductees include Sandra Day O’Connor, Karen Hughes, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Ebby Halliday Acers, Louise Ritter and Mary Evelyn Blagg Huey.


RACHEL MEHLHAFF can be reached at 940-566-6889. Her e-mail address is