Paul Saunders, Dean Paul Schwager, President Andrew T. Hsu and Rick Saunders

A family with a storied history in community banking has established a new scholarship for business students at the College of Charleston in memory of their father, Frederick (Freddie) Saunders Sr.

Brothers Rick, Paul and Mark Saunders together with their family and community have created the Freddie Saunders & Family Endowed Scholarship to support School of Business students majoring in finance, business administration, accounting, economics, management or entrepreneurship.

“Before [our father’s] passing, our family discussed the importance of legacy — not just his, but our entire family’s legacy,” says Rick Saunders, president and CEO of First Reliance Bank and College of Charleston School of Business Board of Governors member. “We all felt our lives have been blessed beyond what we deserve and felt we should somehow give back.”

Staying true to the family’s PeeDee roots, first preference of the scholarship will be awarded to students from Florence County, South Carolina. Students must be in good academic standing and demonstrate financial need.

“Neither he, my brothers nor I were able to afford a higher level of education,” shares Rick. “We felt we wanted to help young people who needed financial assistance to achieve what we could not academically.”

Being forced into independence at a young age, Freddie Saunders quickly learned the importance of character, hard work and grit. He made his life’s mission ensuring his sons understood and exercised those principles.

Mr. Freddie Saunders

Mr. Freddie Saunders

“He always told me, ‘There will always be someone in life smarter than you, but they don’t have to outthink you, and they don’t have to outwork you,’” adds Rick.

The late Mr. Saunders retired from a management position at a regional propane gas company, where he had worked for more than 43 years. After finding little fulfillment in retirement, he embarked on an entirely new career. From age 63 until his passing in 2024 at 86, he helped his two sons, Rick and Paul, build First Reliance Bank, a long-standing regional bank.

The company opened in 1999 and serves the financial needs of citizens across the Carolinas. Rick now serves as the company’s founding chief executive officer and Paul serves as its founding executive vice president. The bank and its founders have received national, regional and local recognition for the accomplishments and contributions made to the community. Their younger brother, Mark, owns and operates a very successful wellness business in Tucson, Arizona. All three sons credit their father for their entrepreneurial ambitions and will to achieve through values, character and hard work.

“I want to thank the Saunders family for their generous establishment of a scholarship in memory of their father,” says Paul Schwager, Ph.D., dean of the College of Charleston School of Business. “This meaningful gift will have a profound impact on our extraordinary business students and will allow them to achieve their dreams while honoring his legacy.”

Aside from their generosity, the Saunders family legacy continues especially at the College of Charleston with Freddie Saunders’s grandchildren — Rick’s children. Now, what previous generations of the Saunders family did not achieve through traditional, formal higher education, the next generation has. Reagan Saunders ’24 recently graduated from the College with a degree in finance, while Reid Saunders ’26 is currently studying political science.

To further the impact of the scholarship, please consider making a gift by donating online and noting in the description field that your gift is restricted to the Freddie Saunders & Family Endowed Scholarship.