July 22, 2022

Friends and former colleagues of Stanislaus State Professor Emerita Roberta T. Anderson remembered her for the significant role she played in developing and expanding the Department of Communication Studies, serving as the University’s first woman administrator and for her unwavering dedication to students. 

Anderson, Stan State’s first woman provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, died peacefully in her sleep May 15. She retired in 1987 after serving 13 years as a tenured communication studies professor but remained engaged with the campus. During her 44-year career in education, she taught countless students at the graduate, undergraduate and community college levels in addition to elementary school. 

Stan State faculty member Greg Jacquay, general manager of the University’s KCSS radio station, said Anderson was instrumental in developing KCSS and The Signal into academic programs within communication studies. 

“She really set up an effective space for student collaboration and creativity through experiential learning,” Jacquay said. “Many students attribute their time at KCSS as highlights of their college career. That space wouldn’t have been possible without Roberta’s advocacy for students.” 

Anderson identified and cultivated experiential learning opportunities for students outside the classroom and facilitated learning experiences within weekly staff meetings, according to Jacquay. Additionally, she authored several funded grants for improvement of instructional programs. 

“She treated students as equal participants in campus meetings,” Jacquay said. “Student office and meeting space was given a priority and remain to this day.” 

Professor Emeritus Fred Hilpert was speaker of the faculty and chair of the Communication Studies Department when Anderson joined the University. 

“She provided leadership in the mass media program of the department, particularly in the development of the KCSS radio program,” Hilpert said. “She was instrumental in expanding the broadcast area of KCSS through licensing requirements with the Federal Communications Commission.  Moreover, she developed the internship program of student leadership in the KCSS positions.” 

Hilpert said he and Anderson worked together in developing the first-floor design of Demergasso-Bava Hall with an eye toward coordinating the mass media programs in radio broadcasting and journalism. The Instructional Technology (IT) offices were a part of the design features that looked toward future extensions in the areas of television mass media. 

“Roberta was an innovative and loyal faculty member,” Hilpert said. “She could be counted on to address controversial issues directly, thoughtfully and collegially. I appreciated the benefits of receiving her advice and wisdom on educational and administrative matters during my 12 years as department chair.” 

Anderson was the first woman to serve in a senior administrative role at the University as provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. At the time, then-President John Moore sought to diversify the administration.  

“She ruffled her share of feathers in that role,” Jacquay said. “I remember there was a great deal of respect for her among the faculty, even with whom she disagreed.” 

Anderson was born July 26 in Wittenberg, WI. She earned her Bachelor of Science from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee and her Master of Education and Ph.D. from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. 

Prior to joining Stan State, Anderson served in leadership roles at Morehead State University in Kentucky and the University of South Dakota, Vermilion.  

She continued her education over the years by attending seminars, workshops and postgraduate classes with an emphasis in management and health communication. According to her obituary published in The Modesto Bee, Anderson found pleasure in seeking out and sharing new information about health care communication, and she was interested in how the mind influenced physical well-being. She communicated regularly with health care professionals in both traditional and alternative practices and wrote books and instructional materials that were the source of her lectures on alternative methods of health care practices. 

Anderson was an engaged community member. She was a member of Soroptimist International and Rotary Clubs of Turlock and Modesto. She served as the Rotary Foundation District 5520 Paul Harris Society Chair from 2005 to 2010 and was also a member of the Tuesday Reading Club. Anderson also served on the boards of the Turlock Concert Association and the Turlock Community Theatre. In 2003, the Stanislaus County Commission for Women recognized her as an Outstanding Woman of Stanislaus County. 

Jacquay said Anderson was a good mentor to him and they kept in touch after she retired.  

“She continued to engage with the local community by supporting local business startups,” he said. “Her love for animals and holistic living was well reflected in her writing.” 

Anderson was preceded in death by her husband of 40 years, Robert J. Anderson; her parents, Thorwald Martin and Helen Evelyn Thorson; sisters Helene M. Thorson and Elizabeth Ida Marie Beckway and niece Pamala (Eve) Povolo. She is survived by niece Candyce Bednar of Lisle, IL, and nephew Clark Beckway of Bolingbrook, IL. 

It was Anderson’s wish for those who wish to remember her to make non-monetary contributions daily in the form of acts of kindness toward one another, friends and strangers alike.