Before Bob Savage celebrates his most recent honor, he took a step back to reflect on his past.
It’s a story that starts on Detroit Avenue, where his father owned a grocery market and cared for his nine children after their mother’s death. It makes a significant stop at the University of Toledo. Mr. Savage studied finance while working 25 hours a week as a butcher at the market, threw himself into student government, and developed a long-lasting love for the local university.
In the following years, he and his brother John built the successful financial services firm Savage and Associates, where Mr. Savage is chairman emeritus. At age 25, Toledo voters elected him councilman, and he since has served on a variety of area boards.
The story circles back to UT for Sunday morning’s commencement ceremony. The university will award Mr. Savage, 75, of Toledo an honorary doctor of commercial science. The recognition comes more than 50 years after Mr. Savage, wearing a black cap and gown, picked up his bachelor’s degree in business on his own graduation day in 1959.
“I have an enormous love for the university, and that’s really what it comes down to,” said Mr. Savage, during an interview in his office adorned with photographs he’s captured from globe-hopping trips. “I take it as a tremendous tribute not only to me but to our corporation because all of us around here have been huge University of Toledo supporters in all ways, not just the College of Business.”
Mr. Savage helped with fund-raising efforts to build the College of Business and Innovation’s Savage and Associates Complex for Business and Learning Engagement. The center opened in 2010 and was supported by donations from Mr. Savage and the company’s employees.
He also served on the university’s board of trustees from 1985 to 1996. A plaque commemorating those years is displayed in his office. The simple inscription is mounted on a pale, rectangular lannon stone — the signature architectural feature of university buildings. Mr. Savage considers the stone a university hallmark and believes it’s key to incorporate it in structures around campus. The Savage and Associates Complex melds the traditional stonework while incorporating modern technology and features.
Mr. Savage was nominated for the honorary degree by Tom Gutteridge, the university’s senior vice provost and interim dean of the College of Criminal Justice and Human Services. Mr. Gutteridge, the university’s business dean from 2003 until last fall, heralded the university supporter for his strong business and community leadership.
“He’s obviously passionate about his roots here,” Mr. Gutteridge said. “He gets higher education, and the challenge it is facing but also the contributions it makes.”
He’s also a role model to students.
“What comes to me — and it comes over and over again and you don’t always see this with a businessman — is that he’s a family man,” Mr. Gutteridge said. “He kind of epitomizes the person who is able to get that, what I’ll call, work-life balance.”
Mr. Savage, who with his wife, Sue, has six children, always found time to help community groups.
“My view is a holistic view of life and living. You can’t succeed if the people around you are failing. It doesn’t work. The trick is to bring everybody up,” he said.
That has meant a long, benevolent reach that extends to supporting Imagination Station, a hands-on science center in downtown Toledo, to building a basketball court in the yard of his West Toledo house where his children and neighborhood pals once played. (He calls the court the “best investment I ever made in my life” because it was so well-used.)
His commitment to Imagination Station goes back to its early development.
“He’s devoted to our community here, and that’s why he spends so much time giving,” said David Waterman, chairman of the Imagination Station board on which Mr. Savage also serves.
His service wasn’t limited to UT. Mr. Savage also served on the Bowling Green State University Board of Trustees from 1973 to 1979.
BGSU will honor another philanthropist this graduation season with an honorary doctorate in business administration. Bob Sebo of Salem, Ohio, gave more than $5 million to support scholarships, the Sebo Athletic Center, and a lecture series. He’s a retired senior vice president of the payroll accounting firm Paychex and served on the BGSU board for nine years until 2011.
Lourdes University will recognize Sister Jane Mary Sorosiak, an artist and member of the Sylvania Franciscan community, with an honorary doctoral degree. Sister Jane Mary taught art and English at Cardinal Stritch High School, launched the associate degree in art program at the former Lourdes Junior College, and helped it become the present four-year program. She now creates ceramic murals that can be seen at schools and churches throughout the country.
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