Author: Melanie Dunham
As Texas’ longest serving first lady, Anita Thigpen Perry is no stranger to life in the spotlight. During her 13 years in the Governor’s Mansion, Mrs. Perry has spear-headed the annual Texas Conference for Women and been honored with two nursing endowments at Texas universities. Yet this Haskell, Texas native still enjoys visiting and supporting small town Main Street programs and working with the March of Dimes. Take a moment to get to know Texas’ first lady.
AF: How did your family’s history in healthcare influence your career and community service paths?
AP: Healthcare was in my DNA! With my dad being a doctor – the doctor — in Haskell, from my earliest memories, medicine played a role. It was a source of pride to see how the community relied on my father for healthcare needs for the entire family. From delivering babies to diagnosing run-of-the-mill ailments to diagnosing complicated, hard-to-diagnose diseases, Daddy did and saw it all.
I was always interested in the medical field, but that interest was cemented when I began working at his practice as a teenager. There was no doubt, healthcare was my passion and it would be my career.
I love serving on the Board of Trustees for Baylor Scott & White. It’s exciting and stimulating to be part of an institution that is cutting-edge in the medical field.
AF: Do your children share your passion for helping others? How have you nurtured this behavior?
AP: Rick and I have always encouraged our children to follow their own passion and do what interests them. They’ve chosen a different path than the medical field and I am thrilled they’ve identified areas they find to be rewarding. I am also proud of them for not feeling the need to follow in my footsteps.
AF: In your opinion, what is the biggest healthcare challenge for Texas families today?
AP: This is a challenge we all face: ensuring access to healthcare for our growing population and in rural areas. I believe medical schools are an integral part of the answer and working to alleviate physician shortages in rural areas is also important. The new medical schools in Austin and South Texas and increased funding for graduate medical education will provide more access to health care.
One of the many things I love about our great state is how lucky we are to have world-class researchers and medical pioneers right here in our own backyard. What a huge comfort to know when you need that caliber of medical care, it’s within our state.
AF: Given Governor Perry’s longtime tenure in government service, how did you maintain a strong family unit in the face of hectic schedules and frequent travel?
AP: My children have always come first. I worked hard to make it to all the baseball games and their other activities. It was always important and a priority to be home for dinner time.
And, we make sure to do fun things as a family – we love going to football games and watching football and other sports on TV as a family. But, just like other families who are busy, it’s a balancing act.
AF: Do you feel promoting Texas culture and encouraging home town values benefits families? How so?
AP: I loved growing up in a small town. But, no matter where someone is reared it’s all about the values instilled within the family. Most importantly, children need to feel loved and supported. Texas is blessed with varied cultures and resources and assets and they all benefit Texans in different ways. I believe it’s important to get involved in your community. Give back. Connect with others. Share your God-given talents. Life is richer and more rewarding that way and it’s a great way to instill strong values and set a good example for children.
AF: Which Texas city would be your ideal place to retire in the future?
AP: Just like anyone who retires, Rick and I will have to consider a number of factors when that time comes.
AF: Tell us about your new role as grandmother to Ella Gray.
AP: I’m certainly not the first to say it, being a grandparent changes your life. It’s wonderful!
AF: What is one thing you hope is different in the world when Ella is an adult?
AP: Ella is growing up in exciting times! With cutting-edge technology and research, we are on the brink of a myriad of exciting things. During the last number of years, we in Texas have been sowing the seeds for greatness and Ella will enjoy this wonderful state of Texas as it continues to get better and better.
AF: Is there anything you would like to share with Austin Family readers?
AP: One of the first things I see in the morning and one of the last things I see before I go to bed is a blessing I keep on my nightstand. It’s beautiful and sums up things quite nicely:
May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
May the rains fall soft upon your fields,
And, until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand