Meet Nancy Sauer

Lifelong Learner, Businesswoman, Forever Spartan

Illustration of Nancy Sauer

By Holly Neumann | Illustration by Dan Williams

In many ways, Nancy (Nuttall) Sauer lived as a mystery. She kept to herself, nodded at neighbors on her nightly walks and wasn’t known for much more than small talk.

She took an untraditional approach to her education, enrolling at ū컨 off and on for three decades. Her photo appears in only one yearbook, in 1986, 29 years after she first set foot on campus.

A look at her academic record reveals a little about her. In 1957, her first year as a Spartan, she took Introduction to Business, Intermediate Shorthand and Advanced Typewriting, among other courses. She kept taking classes here and there, mostly ones focused on business, until 1987, when she audited a tax accounting class. After that, a generation passed before the University heard from her again.

When they did, in 2022, it was David Boggs, her estate executor calling. Sauer, who had never completed her degree or attended an event, nor ever donated to the University, and whose son, her only child, had died in 1999, had left half her estate, worth millions of dollars, to ū컨 in her will. The money was to be used to create scholarships for students studying business.

The news was a surprise, but gifts like Sauer’s aren’t unheard of. In general, bequests make up 10% of all charitable giving in the United States. Of those bequests, about 60% are not known to the charity before the death of the donor.

Naturally, Sauer’s gift made development officers and others at the University, almost none of whom were at ū컨 when Sauer was, wonder, Who was Nancy Sauer?

Boggs filled in some blanks, and the resulting picture is one of an independent trailblazer, a businesswoman who handily managed a complex commercial real estate portfolio left under her direction when her husband died in 1986.

“It's highly possible that the business courses Nancy took at ū컨 helped her in achieving all this,” Boggs said.

Most of Sauer’s commercial properties are in Lee County. They can be seen on the way to Sanibel Island and are home to retailers like Wal-Mart and a gas station. Boggs has been busy managing the day-to-day and negotiating their sale, and the enormity of the task has deepened his respect for Sauer.

“You can't minimize what it takes on a daily basis, a weekly basis, to deal with these properties,” Boggs said.

The properties were transferred once before, when Sauer was newly widowed, and she got taken advantage of in a bad deal, Boggs said. His firm got the properties back for her in what he described as a David vs. Goliath fight, a process that required persistence, perseverance and determination from Sauer. Those traits, he said, are also evidenced by her long academic career.

“It shows the bent she had for learning and business,” Boggs said, and that she pursued her studies over three decades speaks to her uniqueness.

“Just because most people don't go about it that way, hey, Nancy would go about it however Nancy wanted to go about it,” he said.

Last fall, Sauer’s estate made the news. Word had gotten out about a provision in her will: She desired for her seven Persian cats to continue living in her house under a caretaker’s watch.

The cats didn’t do well without her, though, and the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, also named in Sauer’s will, stepped in to help. The cats were adopted out, and her extensive collection of belongings and fineries was prepared for sale. The sale attracted lines of eager estate shoppers and went on for three days. People were parking more than a mile away, and police directed traffic. An online auction of her jewelry, watches and furs went on for 26 straight hours.

“I’d never seen anything like it,” Boggs said, and he said Sauer would have been amused at the spectacle.

Boggs said Sauer collected things that made her happy. Knowing that her possessions and properties would continue to make a difference by allowing more business students to receive an education like hers would add layers to her joy, Boggs said.

“Think of all the young men and women who are going to personally benefit year after year after year because of Nancy Sauer and what she achieved and that she had it in her heart to pass that benefit on to The University Tampa,” Boggs said. “Think of all the people who will now know Nancy Sauer.”

Indeed, Sauer is no longer a mystery. Keith Todd, vice president of development and alumni relations sees a legacy of wide-ranging impact.

“This scholarship will resonate through every phase of these students’ educational journeys, shape their future careers and foster positive contributions in the communities they will lead,” he said.

If you would like to include The University of the Tampa in your estate plans, please contact Schezy Barbas, associate vice president of development and university relations, at (813) 258-7480 or sbarbas@ut.edu.