Anita Perry, First Lady of Texas
Health care has not just been a career, but a lifelong passion for Texas First Lady Anita Perry. From the time she was old enough to remember her father’s work as a family practice physician in Haskell, Texas, Mrs. Perry has been committed to health care issues - particularly those relating to women and children.
The daughter of Dr. Joe and Beunis Thigpen, Anita Perry grew up with three siblings - Joseph, Peggy and Emily. From her parents, she learned at an early age the importance of family, graciousness and community service and continues to value their teachings.
Pursuing her early interest in health care, Mrs. Perry received a bachelor’s degree in nursing from West Texas State University (now known as West Texas A&M University), and later a Master of Science in Nursing degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Her 17-year career in the health care profession included nursing the areas of surgery, pediatrics, intensive care, consulting and administration.
In 1982, after a long courtship and careers that found Rick Perry and Anita on different sides of the globe, the high school sweethearts married and started a family in Haskell. They are the proud parents of two children, son Griffin and daughter Sydney. With family as their top priority, you will often find the Governor and First Lady cheering at high school sporting events or taking part in their children’s other numerous school and church activities.
As Texas’ First Lady, Mrs. Perry continues to pursue her dedication to improving the health of Texans. Mrs. Perry often draws from her own nursing experiences when promoting health care issues, and actively encourages young Texans to consider careers in nursing. She serves as an advocate on a variety of issues including family violence prevention, Alzheimer’s disease education and breast cancer awareness. Whether she’s speaking out for abuse victims, educating expectant mothers about the dangers of smoking, or working to increase immunization rates for Texas children, First Lady Anita Perry is an ambassador of caring. It’s easy to see why her husband often refers to her not only as the First Lady, but also as the “First Nurse” of Texas.
In 2001, she was honored to have two endowments benefiting issues close to her heart set up in her name at West Texas A&M University and the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. The Anita Thigpen Perry Nursing Excellence Scholarship provides scholarships to students who have been admitted to the Nursing Program at West Texas A&M University in an effort to help more students follow the dream of a career in nursing. The Anita Thigpen Perry Endowment at the San Antonio Health Science Center helps support the new Center for Community-Based Health Promotion in Women and Children, which focuses on improving areas such as nutrition, cardiovascular disease, health education and early childhood development for women and children in South Texas.
Mrs. Perry has also been actively committed to opening new doors of opportunity to women. She frequently addresses women’s groups around the state and, along with Governor Perry, helped develop and host the Texas Conference for Women for the past five years. The conference, which has annually drawn thousands of women from across the state and nation, addresses numerous women’s issues including professional development, health care and personal growth.
Mrs. Perry is involved with numerous charitable organizations and boards. The Perrys are also active members of the Tarrytown United Methodist Church.