Close Menu

Whitworth to confer honorary doctorate on president of Oklahoma City health foundation

October 7, 2009
Whitworth University will confer upon Michael Anderson, Ph.D., president of the Presbyterian Health Foundation, in Oklahoma City, an honorary doctor of divinity in recognition of his long and distinguished service to the Presbyterian Church and his commitment to living out Whitworth's mission to honor God, follow Christ, and serve humanity. The ceremony will take place as part of chapel services, in which Anderson will also present the message, on Thursday, Oct. 8, at 11 a.m. in the Seeley Mudd Chapel at Whitworth.

Since 2000, Anderson has headed up the Presbyterian Health Foundation (PHF), which he helped found and had previously served as a board member for 18 years. PHF seeks to support medical research and commercialization of new therapeutics and innovative diagnostics that save and enhance human life. Since its inception in 1985, it has given nearly $110 million in grants to Oklahoma science institutions, and the PHF research park in which Anderson works is home to more than 35 biotech companies.

As president, Anderson has helped grant more than $65 million toward medical research at the Oklahoma Health Center, an extensive campus in Oklahoma City that houses the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, OU Medical Center and Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. He says he hopes to expand several areas of excellence at the OU Health Center, including ophthalmology, microbiology, cancer research and immunobiology.

Anderson, a Spokane native, graduated from Whitworth in 1956 with bachelor's degrees in psychology and philosophy. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh and an advanced degree from San Francisco Theological Seminary. After receiving his doctorate, he was appointed to the Commission of Public Representation for the National Institutes of Health, which funds $30 billion in bioscience research annually.

A former longtime Presbyterian minister, Anderson demonstrates how one can be both a preacher and a promoter of scientific research.

"The goal of our foundation is to advance the health of human life," he says. "And that's also an aspect of a theological perspective on life."

His experience as a clergyman has helped Anderson stress to health professionals the importance of ethics in modern scientific research, and he has built his life and work around the belief that theology and science complement rather than contradict each other. Among his favorite sayings is a quote from Albert Einstein, who said, "Religion without science is blind; science without religion is lame."

The Rev. Dr. Jim Singleton, vice chair of Whitworth’s board of trustees, wrote in his nomination of Anderson, "In his current role with the Presbyterian Health Foundation, Mike is instilling ethical norms into scientific research in ways that build up and bless the culture. Mike is precisely the kind of graduate Whitworth hopes to inject into the world."

Before joining the PHF, Anderson was senior minister at the 2,600-member Westminster Presbyterian Church, in Oklahoma City, for nearly 25 years. During his years there, he worked with a small group to help launch PHF. Before he moved to Oklahoma, he was managing director of interpretation and stewardship for the worldwide mission of the New York City-based United Presbyterian Church. In this position, he helped raise more than $50 million for the denomination. He also served for five years as pastor of University Place Presbyterian Church, in Tacoma.

Despite his lifelong commitment to the church, Anderson has said he never expected to become a minister before arriving at Whitworth. He came to the school because of its successful basketball program, but while taking several religion courses, he became inspired to preach.

"God works in strange and mysterious ways," he says. "It was at (Whitworth) where I began to encounter all the forces that led me to this ministry."

Michael Le Roy, Whitworth's vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty, says, "The way Michael Anderson has pursued his vocation and life work is deeply connected to the Whitworth ideals of commitment to Christ and the integration of that commitment with intellectual inquiry. On the Presbyterian Health Foundation’s website, Anderson references Michelangelo’s quote 'Ancora Impario' (I am still learning.) This devotion to the advancement of knowledge makes him an alum we are proud to hold high and to encourage our students to emulate."

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The university, which has an enrollment of 2,700 students, offers 55 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.


Emily Proffitt, public information officer, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or