Donald Bishop Saunders ’62

Dr. Donald Bishop Saunders died peacefully at home in Blowing Rock, NC on July 9, 2020.  He was 79. “Dr. Don,” as he was known by all, was retired from his positions of history professor and Director of the Honors Program at Appalachian State University. 

Don was born and raised in Montclair, NJ, graduated from Davidson College and received a doctorate in philosophy from UNC Chapel Hill. He taught at Appalachian State for 32 years and also taught in the ASU/Newport summer program in Rhode Island for 14 years.

Don’s passions in life were steadfast love of friends and family, the Presbyterian faith, teaching and mentoring, historic preservation and environmental conservation.

Dr. Don’s life-long affair with history showed itself as early as 7th grade when he wrote articles for his junior high newspaper. He was active on the local, state and national level with historical groups and published widely.  He had many academic endeavors and responsibilities through a long and distinguished career. 

He held memberships on many boards including the University Library, Watauga County Community Foundation, an affiliate of the NCCF, and the Watauga County Historical Society as well as involved with Watauga County Humane Society and the North Carolina Council for International Understanding.  Additionally, he served on many boards and committees of the Presbyterian Church, taught Sunday School for many years and wrote For His Cause, A Little House, a history of his beloved Rumple Memorial Presbyterian Church in Blowing Rock. He quietly and generously donated to many conservation groups and actively served on their boards and commissions.

Nobody liked to talk politics more than Don –he tried his best to make good Democrats out of everyone, and there was much enjoyment in getting his special take on things of local, state, and national issues.

Dr. Don’s penny-pinching ways were a running joke: calculating restaurant bills down to the penny, love of dollar stores and reuse of plastic bags.  But he was also known for being incredibly generous with his time, financial and intellectual support, and love.  While he may have been pinching pennies, he had a greater plan in mind through his notable giving and was living the Lord’s life all the way through as a shining example for all.

Dr. Don had a special place in his heart for his fraternity brothers at both Alpha Tau Omega, Davidson College and Sigma Phi Epsilon at Appalachian State, where he served as advisor and mentor for years.

Don is survived by his sister, Marcia Saunders Draper, brother Warren Saunders, wife Ellen and their children and grandchildren, cousins Penny McKee McCook, David McKee, Carol King Rubwright, Pat King McLean, special friends Barb Jackson, Chris McCaw, Melissa Barth, Bettie and John Bond, Jared and Audrey Rorrer, Judy Clark, Daniel Moretz, and Lonnie and Ada Webster, as well as countless other folks around the world who loved him.

 In honor of Dr. Don’s life, memorial contributions may be made to the Dr. Don Saunders Endowment #1717 C/O the North Carolina Community Foundation 3737 Glenwood Avenue, Suite 460, Raleigh, NC 27612, or

A celebration of Don’s life will be streamed live from Rumple Memorial Presbyterian Church beginning at 10am on Wednesday, July 22.  Friends and family can join at this link or by using the link to Rumple’s YouTube channel, which can be found at  Please plan to join the livestream 15 minutes early to avoid any technical issues.

Online condolences may be sent to the Saunders family at

Hampton Funeral and Cremation Service is in charge of the arrangements.