Sanderson was born on March 24, 1859 in Greenville, Ohio. Sanderson moved to Washington State in 1886 and pastored Christian Churches in Palouse, Colfax, Ellensburg, Sumner, Vancouver, and Olympia. In 1894 he was pastor at First Christian Church in Portland, Oregon.
Dr. Sanderson saw a need to train ministers for the Christian Church in the Pacific Northwest. To do so, he returned to Chicago and completed his doctorate. In early 1895, he took part in a meeting in Eugene, Oregon to discuss establishing a school to train ministers. He strongly believed that locating ministerial schools near state institutions of higher education provided the best of both worlds. Thus, he deliberately located EDS next to the University of Oregon (UO) near East 11th Avenue and Alder Street to take advantage of the UO liberal arts program while EDS focused primarily on the ministerial courses including Bible, theology, music, and oratory. Eugene Divinity School became Eugene Bible University (EBU) in 1908. In 1908 the Administration Building was constructed. It is three stories tall and was constructed of volcanic stone from southern Oregon. Other buildings were constructed during his tenure, including the Music Building.
During the 1920s Eugene Bible University, under Sanderson’s leadership, expanded to include a number of other enterprises by incorporating the International Bible Mission (IBM). These two institutions were closely linked, especially financially. During the Great Depression, both EBU and IBM found themselves overextended and financially in default. Operations were scaled back to just the Eugene campus of EBU.
He founded Pacific Christian Hospital, which is now PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center University District, across Alder Street from EBU. There was a need for a good medical facility in Eugene at this time. Local citizens looked to Sanderson, because of his reputation, to develop such a facility. Construction began in February 1923. It opened on March 17, 1924. The six story building cost about $225,000. It included a School for Nurses where a three-year program led to a degree as a Registered Nurse. In 1936 it was sold to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Newark for $50,000 and renamed Sacred Heart General Hospital.
He served as the second president of Minneapolis Bible College (now Crossroads College) in Rochester, Minnesota from 1924 to 1932. It had been founded by David E. Olsen, a 1908 graduate of EDS, in 1913.