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San Antonio, Texas
“I always ask to meet customers before they drive away, as it becomes a celebration for us all. And it is one of the reasons I simply love what I do!”
“I love to see people who have reached a dream, sometimes it is the new car that they have been wanting for so long,” nominee Cavender said. “I always ask to meet customers before they drive away, as it becomes a celebration for us all. And it is one of the reasons I simply love what I do!”
Cavender is a 1976 graduate of Alamo Heights High School in San Antonio. He earned a B.B.A. in general business from the University of Texas at Austin in 1980, where he was a member of the National Honor Society and Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.
After college, he considered going to law school, but the automotive industry was already in his blood. His grandfather had bought an Oldsmobile agency in 1939 in San Antonio, and his father and uncle took over the business. “Since age 16, I had roles within the dealership and worked summers assisting customers in the service department,” Cavender said. His father told him that the town didn’t need another lawyer, but the family operation could use a good car salesman, so he took the job. “It was there that I met many of the lifelong friends and customers I still assist today, some 40 years later,” he said.
Cavender learned all aspects of the business, working with his brother and cousins to expand the enterprise. Cavender Auto currently encompasses seven dealerships in San Antonio and Boerne, Texas, selling Audi, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Land Rover, Scion and Toyota brands. Cavender is dealer principal at Cavender Audi and his brother Stephen manages Cavender Toyota, while his cousins oversee the other stores.
Cavender’s deep roots in San Antonio have inspired him to give back to his community. “I have always tried to think of others who are in need of assistance,” he said. When he was president of the Rotary Club of San Antonio in 1996, he founded the Kingdom for Kids program, which builds playgrounds at inner-city schools, churches and libraries. “We toured an elementary school and saw the children were playing in an asphalt parking lot,” he said. “Since that time, we have completed 15 playgrounds around our community with the help of thousands of volunteers.”
He has also worked to assist youngsters through the Snack Pak 4 Kids nutritional program, which provides healthy food for hungry children on weekends, as well by volunteering for SAReads, a literacy initiative. For senior citizens, Cavender has delivered hot meals through Meals on Wheels. “We have also donated many thousands of dollars to local charities, hosting gala celebrations, golf tournaments and receptions,” he added. He is currently campaign chair for the 2016 United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County, as well as a board member for City Year San Antonio, San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind and the Lone Star Chapter for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. In addition, Cavender has offered to donate the services of his popular Rick Cavender Band for entertainment at fundraising events.
Cavender has received many awards and recognition for his community volunteerism and business success, but most meaningful to him is the Rotary International Service Above Self Award, which he earned in 2012. “I was extremely honored to have been chosen for this award because it comes from peers who all practice unselfish acts of kindness every day,” he said. “Being a Rotarian is an honor that my grandfather bestowed on me in 1988 when he proposed me for membership, and I have been active in the organization ever since. I have enjoyed the outreach it provides locally and throughout the world.”
Cavender was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Bill Wolters, president of the Texas Automobile Dealers Association. He and his wife, Suzanne, have two children and one grandchild.