John R. Anderson, PhD, in memoriam: A personal message from the Ad Hoc Committee on Psychology and AIDS (COPA)

John Anderson was a mentor, leader, visionary and friend to many

Dr. John AndersonThe mental health community mourns the death of John Anderson, a mentor, a leader, a visionary, a friend to so many of us. The response to John’s death has been an outpouring of thoughtful and moving tributes to his generous wisdom and spirit. These testimonials attest to his capacity to see possibilities for new collaborations and bringing together professionals who might not otherwise have met to find and implement best practices for engaging diverse populations.

John was a problem solver, always seeking a higher standard of service to our communities. He found ways to bring national resources to psychologists and to the neighborhoods all over the country. He started conversations between urban and rural providers who thought they had nothing in common. John got psychologists who had no support at home to become voices for people with AIDS and at risk of infection, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, women, and intravenous drug users whose needs had been otherwise invisible in small towns and underserved areas. 

As trainers, we often joked, “How did John get us to do this?” But we knew we had to be on that next effort with him wherever it took us because we knew we would, along with John’s energy and vision, make something great and something empowering for people with AIDS (PWA) and the folks who loved them.

John always found time to also be funny, empathic and always in search of the best in each of us. Never cynical, he saw what we could do when we worked together across race, gender, sexualities, borders; he knew the beauty in difference and sought to mix up a messy, exuberant stew. And like a good cassoulet (the foodie in him would forgive the clumsy metaphor and want a wine pairing), he just kept adding to it. Many of us are lucky enough to say we knew John for decades and never felt neglected, others knew him only briefly but were immediately incorporated into this history and community. 

Former Committee on Psychology and AIDS member Mariana Cherner, PhD noted, “Dr. John Anderson was an advocate, a mentor and teacher, and a compassionate clinician. His contributions to the mental health care of persons with HIV are represented in his leadership of the APA Office on AIDS and the programs there that are his legacy.”

We love you John; we always will. You changed our lives, made us better people, stronger therapists, more focused advocates. You created a snowball that continues to grow and brings new light and skills as trainers, counselors, researchers, community case managers, elders and caregivers who gain strength from the American Psychological Association programs such as HIV Office for Psychology Education (HOPE) Program, Behavioral and Social Science Volunteer (BSSV) Program, Cyber Mentors Program,  Ad Hoc Committee on Psychology and AIDS (COPA), Psychology and AIDS Exchange, End-of-Life resources and all the innovative modality you invented, championed, institutionalized that continues to improve our work with and for people with AIDS.

Thank you John.