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In Loving Memory of William C. Saunders (1945 - 2018)

Posted By Administration, Friday, November 16, 2018

The Rev. Dr. William Clinton Saunders died on June 26, 2018 at the age of 73.

Will was born on March 18, 1945 in Morristown, NJ to Byron Winthrop and Miriam (Wise) Saunders. He graduated from Oberlin College, Oberlin, OH in 1967 with an A.B. in Religion and earned his B.D. from Union Theological Seminary, NY in 1970. From 1968 to 1971, Will served as a student Minister at Community Church of New York, NYC, NY. He then served as a lecturer in Religious Studies at Hunter College, NY from 1974 to 1975. In 1978, Will earned his Ph.D. in American Religious Thought from Columbia University, NYC, NY.

Rev. Dr. Saunders was ordained on October 22, 1972 by First Unitarian Church in Ithaca, NY. From 1976 to 1985, he served as Minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church, Brunswick, ME and then for a decade until 1995 at the Unitarian Universalist Church, Urbana, IL. Subsequently he carried out Interim Ministries at the Harvard Unitarian Church, Harvard, MA (1995-1996) and the Universalist Unitarian Church, Haverhill, MA (1996-1997). Rev. Dr. Saunders served as Co-Minister of South Church (Unitarian Universalist), Portsmouth, NH, 1997-2008. South Church honored him as Minister Emeritus in 2005. Finally, Rev. Dr. Saunders served as Interim Minister at the First Parish in Portland, ME from 2009 until his retirement in 2010.

Will carried out a great deal of service on behalf of the denomination. He served the Northeast District as Trustee and Extension Director from 1979 to 1982. In 1983, he was elected President of the UU Ministers Association Northeast Chapter. He served on the Board of Trustees for the Unitarian Universalist Association from 1982 to 1985 and chaired the UUA’s Young Adult Ministry Task Force from 1987 until 1990. He represented the UU Ministers Association on the Annual Program Fund Continental Committee from 1988 to 1990. From 1988 to 1992, he served as a Trustee for the Central Midwest District Board. In 1992, the UU Ministers Association in the Central Midwest District elected him Good Offices Person. For the years 1981, 1983 and 1993, Will served as Guest Lecturer at the Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago, IL.

While serving the Urbana congregation, Will was active on the Chancellor’s Task Force on Discrimination at University of Illinois. He was president of Project Harvest Hope, a foundation working to rebuild civil society in the Unitarian village of Transylvania in Romania. He was an instructor for UU theology at Bangor Theological Seminary and chaplain at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.

Will was keenly interested in classical music especially chamber music. He enjoyed theatre, art, hiking, bicycling, canoeing, and travelling the world. He loved officiating at weddings and spending time with friends and family. As Will fought with cancer for several years, he kept his family and close friends informed through periodic “health updates” and continued to live as actively as possible.

Will is survived by his wife Julie Draper Saunders; his sons Brynn (Kelly) Saunders and Peter (Marnie) Saunders, Julie’s sons Nicholas and Zachary Draper; his sisters Martha (Bahram) Nabatian, and Carolyn (Bert) Munger; three loving grandchildren Zoe, Zade, and Grace; and several nieces and nephews.

Memorial gifts in Will’s name may be made to Planned Parenthood of New England (

A memorial service was held on July 2nd for family and close friends with Rev. Dan Hotchkiss officiating.

Notes of condolence may be sent to Julie Draper Saunders,

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