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Alumni Spotlight: Ardell Sanders ’99

By Clarke News  |  March 6, 2024
Clarke: Life has taken you around the country since your time at Clarke. What have been some of the highlights of your professional journey? 

Ardell: Armed with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Marketing, I commenced my career as a marketing sales representative, laying the groundwork for the opportunities and challenges that followed. 

I played a pivotal role in Residence Life at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. This experience not only introduced me to the world of counseling but propelled me to earn a Master of Science Education degree, enriching my skill set. A stint at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities furthered my career, particularly in apartment community management, which sparked an interest in property management outside of higher education.   

Following this, I carved a path from an entry-level position to the directorship of the Men’s Achievement Center at North Carolina Central University—an accomplishment I take immense pride in. This venture centered on fostering the success of black and Latino males. It was a labor of passion, dedicated to creating an environment conducive to their academic and personal growth. 

Today, I serve as the Executive Director for Residential Life and the Student Union at Indiana State University. I oversee 17 campus buildings and manage a multi-million-dollar budget, all geared toward creating a vibrant living and learning experience for our students.  

Clarke: You’ve committed much of your life to the service of others through higher education. What draws you to that work? 

Ardell: What keeps me going is knowing my purpose. Mark Twain once wrote, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” The day I learned what my purpose was changed everything. I serve. For years I struggled to understand my true purpose on this rock we call Earth. The day I realized that God put me here to serve, that made everything else make sense. 

I am continually reflecting the Clarke and BVM Core Values through my work. At my core, I identify as an educator. Giving back is an integral aspect of my being.  

Additionally, the principle of justice holds a central place in my work, guided by the understanding that many national systems were not designed with individuals like me in mind. Reflecting on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s poignant words from a letter written in a Birmingham jail, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly,” I am compelled to advocate not only for personal justice but for the collective well-being of anyone entangled in its grip. 

Moreover, the pursuit of freedom propels my unwavering dedication to hard work. I have come to understand that financial gain alone is not my ultimate objective. Instead, my diligence is driven by the desire for freedom—freedom in decision-making, time management, choice, and the flexibility of movement. This profound insight, encapsulated in King’s words, has become a guiding force for me. 

Clarke: You’ve kept that connection to Clarke alive through more than the Core Values. How have you stayed involved? 

Ardell: Since bidding farewell to Clarke in December 1999, my connection to the university has been steadfast. Initial visits were frequent during my tenure at UW-Platteville from 2000 to 2003, yet it wasn’t until 2012 that my engagement deepened significantly. That year, I took the initiative to nominate Clarke alumnus Jaron Warner ’01 for the Athletics Hall of Fame, attending the induction ceremony during homecoming weekend. Except for the tumultuous year of 2020 marked by COVID restrictions, I’ve returned for every Homecoming since. 

In 2014, the remarkable Jane Daly Seaberg ’78, whom I hold in the highest regard, approached me during a Homecoming event. Her invitation led to my election onto Clarke’s Alumni Association Board, where I dedicated seven fulfilling years of service. During my final three years on the board, I concurrently represented the Alumni Association Board on the Board of Trustees, an opportunity that further solidified my commitment to Clarke’s legacy. 

Having been elected to the Board of Trustees, I am now in my first full term. My ongoing commitment to Clarke is rooted in a profound sense of gratitude. I vividly remember, appreciate, and acknowledge that my current position in life is intricately tied to the invaluable experiences and education I received at Clarke. I don’t view my involvement as a sacrifice; rather, it’s a harmonious alignment with my purpose. Appreciating the efforts of people like Bob H. Wahlert and Jane Daly Seaberg who came before me, I recognize that now it’s my turn to contribute. It’s my time to give back to an institution that has been instrumental in shaping my journey and will undoubtedly continue to do the same for future generations. 

Thank you for sharing your story with us, Ardell! Do you know a member of the Clarke alumni community we should highlight? Submit your nominations for a future Alumni Spotlight by emailing          

Interview edited for length and clarity.