Through generosity and leadership, Carolyn Sauder ’55 weaves together belief and action

Through generosity and leadership, Carolyn Sauder ’55 weaves together belief and action
Through generosity and leadership, Carolyn Sauder ’55 weaves together belief and action

Carolyn Sauder ’55: Culture For Service Award Winner

Archbold, Ohio | retired director, Sauder Village | Education major

By Nick Yutzy ’21 & Brian Yoder Schlabach ’07


Carolyn (Yoder) Sauder ’55 personifies generosity and service, giving freely of her time, resources and talents to improve the world and everyone around her.

Formerly the executive director at Sauder Village in Archbold, Ohio, she continues in her 45th year there as a volunteer.

Sauder grew up in West Liberty, Ohio, and graduated from Goshen College with a degree in education.

“Goshen has influenced my life,” Sauder said. “Growing up with an appreciation for education, my family was very committed to Goshen College. I was eager to go to Goshen College because of my experiences visiting my siblings there and seeing the friendships that they found. And I also made lifelong friendships at Goshen.”

Sauder met her husband, Maynard, at Little Eden Mennonite Camp. As a newly married couple, they were charter members of Zion Mennonite Church in Archbold, Ohio, and each had a role to play in the family businesses.

Her father-in-law, Erie Sauder, founded Sauder Woodworking, the fifth largest residential furniture manufacturer in the nation, and Sauder Village, Ohio’s largest living-history museum and Erie’s focus after his retirement.

Helping to implement Erie’s vision in 1976 to keep the ancestral history of Ohio alive, she helped grow Sauder Village by developing relationships with staff, educators and museum and history professionals.

Sauder took on the “people” side of making Erie’s dream a reality by developing an active board of trustees and management team, helping create a business model, hiring employees, organizing volunteers and planning events. Sauder Village opened for its first summer with 42 employees, and has grown to more than 400 employees and 400 volunteers.

“You can’t be the best at everything, so you choose people who are experts and follow their lead and learn from it,” Sauder said. “It’s wonderful to see people succeed.”

The Sauder Village complex sees more than 330,000 guests annually, who experience the lives of the people who lived in Ohio from 1803 to 1920, through costumed guides in historic buildings, community shops, farms and gardens.

One of Sauder’s proudest legacies are the cultural events held at at the village. Nearly every weekend throughout the summer, the village hosts events such as a quilt show, festivals, workshops and concerts, including the Toledo Symphony, where Sauder was a longtime board member.

“There is tremendous economic benefit of building and leading an accomplished business because it helps the community,” she said.

She retired in 2000, and her daughter, Debbie Sauder David, followed in her footsteps, taking over as executive director.

“She has led with passion and enthusiasm, encouraging others to succeed,” Debbie said of her mother. “Her support behind the scenes with my dad and grandpa facilitated their successful business leadership.”

Sauder is quick to mention Maynard when speaking about her accomplishments. “We worked on things together. He was a fantastic leader and we made a good team,” she said. “It’s been a real gift.”

In addition to her leadership at the village, Sauder’s passion for music and the arts led her to help get the ball rolling and with her husband, Maynard, led as co-chair of the Goshen College Music Center fund drive and to serve on its planning committee. It is now the home of the Sauder Concert Hall..

Sauder also was on the senior advisory council for the campaign to build a new library at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (ABMS) in Elkhart. She established the Sauder Stewardship Foundation to perpetuate the spirit of generosity and make a meaningful, positive impact on the community, nation and world. She also supports Mennonite Central Committee, Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) and other organizations that promote peace and justice in the world.

“The Christian values I learned as a youth, and that I saw demonstrated by my father and mother, have had a great impact on who I am today and how I have conducted myself,” she said.

“Carolyn wears her love for others, her church, for music, and for her family and friends on her sleeve,” said former Goshen College President Shirley Showalter. “With her, belief and action are woven together and the thread that ties them together is love.”

Carolyn and Maynard still live in Archbold, Ohio, and have enjoyed traveling and learning about other cultures, and are active members at Zion Mennonite Church.