AUSTIN- Mrs. Ada Cecilia Collins Anderson today presented Huston-Tillotson University with a $3 million gift—the largest gift in the history of the HT—toward the naming of the Sandra Joy Anderson Community Health and Wellness Center. Following her passion of advocating for and empowering young people and championing educational causes, Anderson, age 92, identified Huston-Tillotson University to continue her legacy. Her career accomplishments include overcoming numerous educational and career injustices while personifying a determined spirit that resulted in leadership roles and the creation of civic organizations to empower African Americans, women, and children.
“As a community leader, trailblazer, and champion of civic causes, Mrs. Anderson exemplifies the spirit of the Community Health and Wellness Center which is conceptualized to bring together the community and campus offerings to focus on holistic approaches to health,” said HT President and Chief Executive Officer Larry L. Earvin, Ph.D. “We applaud her efforts to rally the community in support of the components of the HT mission.”
Anderson graduated from Austin’s segregated L.C. Anderson High School. She attended Austin’s two predominantly black colleges, Samuel Huston and Tillotson, where she received a degree in home economics in 1941. She also received her master’s degree in educational psychology in 1965 from The University of Texas at Austin. While a student at Samuel Huston, Ada met M. Jack “Andy” Anderson Sr. and they married in 1943 and together became leaders in the civil rights movement and in Austin’s African American community. They established the Anderson-Wormley real estate and insurance firm, providing affordable housing that empowered the Central Texas African American community.
Ada Anderson has many firsts in her career such as serving on the Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women and as the first African American professional at the Texas Employment Commission during John Connally’s term as governor. In 2004, Anderson was awarded the Leadership in Civil Rights Award by the LBJ Library and LBJ School of Public Affairs. The award was created to recognize men and women who helped enhance the rights of all Americans. She also served as an Austin Community College Trustee and Advisory Council member of the UT College of Education Foundation. She served on the Board of Directors of the Girl Scouts, and the Citizen’s Advisory Committee of the Travis County Juvenile Board. She was Chair of the Board of Directors for the Laguna Gloria Art Museum, is a founding member of the Austin Lyric Opera, and Trustee for the Long Center for the Performing Arts. She founded LEAP (Leadership Enriching Arts Program) for African American children who were less fortunate and gave them exposure to the arts. She established the Austin chapter of Jack and Jill, America, Inc., a leadership and service organization; and is a charter member of the Alpha Nu chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.
The Andersons had two children, M. Jack Anderson Jr., who died at 40 in a swimming accident, and Sandra Joy Anderson Baccus, who died at 65 near Atlanta, GA, where she lived and worked. Designating the gift to HT’s health and wellness initiative to honor her daughter, continues her legacy. Ada Anderson served as President of the Austin-Travis County Mental Health Association and served on the Saint David’s Foundation Board.
Raising the immediate need for African American mental health physicians in Central Texas, HT officials implemented the 21st Century Solutions-Based Listening Tour with a team of medical professionals prepared to address local disparities. The CHWC is planned as a $35 million complex to serve the medical needs of HT students and faculty, and underserved populations throughout Central Texas. Ada Anderson’s gift supports the University’s efforts to raise disparities in mental health care services within the Central Texas African American population as a community issue.
Huston-Tillotson University has partnered with Austin Travis County Integral Care (ATCIC), Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services (HHSD), a Federally Qualified Health Clinic (FQHC), and other key stakeholders to provide mental and behavioral health practitioners committed to servicing a diverse population that has been absent of minority caregivers and service providers. In addition, the City of Austin, recognizing the health disparities in Travis County for African American residents, endorsed the HT initiative with a resolution and support.
One of “America’s Leading Black Doctors” according to Black Enterprise Magazine, William Lawson, M.D., Professor and Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry Howard University College of Medicine, led a two-day lecture and dialogue to reinforce the importance of HT’s initiative on community health and wellness.
“HT’s newly erected Community Health and Wellness Center with its gymnasium, classroom, and health services components will strategically bring together the community and campus offerings to focus on holistic approaches to health—specifically in the areas of recreation, evaluation, education, and human performance. The three pronged approach of patient care, research, and community interventions will significantly improve the environment of care for the minority residents of East Austin,” Earvin concluded.
Huston-Tillotson University, Austin’s first institution of higher education, offers Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in 20 areas of study. The historically black university is affiliated with The United Methodist Church and the United Church of Christ.