Entrepreneur Philip Saunders Works for the Long Haul




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Philip Saunders doesn’t believe in taking the road less traveled.

This forward-thinking entrepreneur became a driving force in the highway transportation industry by offering something no one else thought of—or could match: a one-stop rest area for truck drivers needing repair service and maintenance, refreshments, motel service and personal amenities.

Saunders named his business Truckstops of America (now called TravelCenters of America)—the genesis to his other companies including Econo-Car International and Travel Ports to ventures such as Griffith Energy, Sugar Creek Corporation and Richardson Foods Corporation.

Dreaming and doing has led to Saunders’ success, and in recognition of his contributions, the College of Business at Rochester Institute of Technology has named Saunders as recipient of the 2005 Herbert W. Vanden Brul Entrepreneurial Award. He will be honored at an awards luncheon on April 28 at Oak Hill Country Club.

“Back in the mid-‘60s, truck stops were unique to industry and most consisted of a beat-up gas station with only diesel fuel and a hot dog stand,” Saunders says.

All that’s changed with TravelCenters of America dotted across the United States.

“To grow a business, it takes hard work, being persistent and not spending any money until you’ve earned it,” says Saunders, who planned on retiring at the age of 41, but “got bored in about 50 days.”

During his career, Saunders has been very involved with the American Red Cross nationally—including the disaster relief blood drive campaign, ‘Drive to Save Lives: Give Blood,’” For the past 10 years, he was on the board of Excellus Inc., and is currently chairman of Genesee Regional Bank and chairman of Griffith Energy, where he maintains an office on Brooks Avenue. He lives in Dansville with his wife, Carol, on their working farm with beef, cattle and “premiere” hay&mdas;which he sells to racetracks and polo grounds. In his spare time, Saunders enjoys farming, hunting, fishing, golfing and the company of his 11 grandchildren and one great grandchild.

“I’m honored to be awarded the Vanden Brul for 2005 but I couldn’t have succeeded in business without lots of good people that I depended on and who helped make it happen,” Saunders says. “I’m sure that’s part of what they teach at RIT’s College of Business. Camaraderie leads to success.”

RIT’s Herbert W. Vanden Brul Entrepreneurial Award goes annually to a successful individual who developed a business that improved the Rochester economy or whose innovative management skills have changed the course of an existing business. Past recipients include Wayne LeChase, CEO of LeChase Construction Services LLC, Joseph M. Lobozzo II, founder and CEO of JML Optical Industries Inc.; and Dennis and Larry Kessler, Kessler Group Inc.

MEDIA NOTE: RIT will honor Philip Saunders at noon on Thursday, April 28, during an invitation-only luncheon at Oak Hill Country Club. To cover the presentation, contact Marcia Morphy, RIT University News, at 475-4951 or mpmuns@rit.edu.