Since 1964, theHumanitarian Awards Celebration has honored one or more individuals who have demonstrated a significant commitment to building inclusive communities. These honorees have had a meaningful impact in improving social justice and human rights efforts through their work and community service.
Fellow honorees included Rhonda Aaron, founder and president of Sister Friends United, and Sherman Tate, community leader and mentor. Dr. Robert Johnston received the award posthumously in recognition of his lifetime of public service and commitment to social justice.
Anderson was also the recipient of UA Little Rock’s 2018 Faculty Excellence Award for Public Service and a $5,000 prize. His significant contributions to the black deaf community are undeniable. Anderson often guest lectures, makes presentations, and writes journal articles on black deaf history and linguistic variations among black American Sign Language users.
He was a keynote speaker during aMarch 13 ceremony at the Arkansas State Capitol building kicking off Deaf History Month. Anderson said the ceremony was an important way to remember the accomplishments of those who are deaf and hard of hearing in Arkansas.
“Many deaf people have many accomplishments that the public might not be aware of,” he said. “This is an opportunity for us to come together to celebrate, recognize, and honor deaf people for their achievements and accomplishments.”
In 2017, Gallaudet University, the world’s only university in which all programs and services are specifically designed to accommodate deaf and hard of hearing students, awarded Anderson the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree during Gallaudet’s 147th commencement.
Born and raised on the south side of Chicago, Anderson became deaf at the age of seven. Encountering barriers and obstacles during his childhood, his parents told him, “You have to be twice as good as anyone else to be successful.”
He received a Ph.D. in rehabilitation counseling from New York University, a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling from the University of Arizona, and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Gallaudet College.
Anderson also lays claim to several pioneering roles. He is the first deaf person hired by Michigan Rehabilitation Services to work as a vocational rehabilitation counselor (1970), the first African-American alumnus of Gallaudet to earn a doctoral degree (New York University, 1982), and the first African-American deaf person to serve as chair of the Gallaudet University Board of Trustees (1994 to 2005).
His career has included coordinating a referral and counseling center in New York City and helping to establish a continuing education program to benefit deaf adults interested in returning to school and completing their college degrees.
In 2008, he joined the Interpreter Education faculty within the Department of Counseling, Rehabilitation and Adult Education at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. From 1982 to 2008, he served as director of training at the University of Arkansas Rehabilitation Research and Training Center for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing.
He was also a professor in the University of Arkansas’s Department of Rehabilitation, Human Resources, and Communication Disorders and served as coordinator of the master’s degree program in rehabilitation counseling with persons who are deaf or hard of hearing.
He published numerous articles in professional journals and books, including the 2006 book/DVD entitled, “Still I Rise! The Enduring Legacy of Black Deaf Arkansans Before & After Integration.”
Anderson was appointed by President George W. Bush as a member of the National Council on Disability from 2002 to 2005. Anderson served on the Board of Directors for the National Black Deaf Advocates from 2012 to 2015.
During Gallaudet University’s 150th anniversary celebration in 2014, Anderson was named one of the university’s 15 visionary leaders. In 2016, he was appointed to the Commission on Collegiate Interpreter Education, the national accrediting board for interpreter education programs.