Nancy Rodman Anguish / Jefferson Award Winner 2007
Outstanding personal acts.
In the fall of 2001, Nancy Anguish accepted another lunch invitation to serve on a non-profit board – nothing new for a respected woman whose 30 plus years of involvement on the boards of 21 service organizations has long meant a true worker, sound leadership and attention for the organizations with which she associates herself. That day however, Nancy did not know her eventual acceptance as the founding board president of the West Texas Aphasia Center (WTAC) would lead to the creation of a service that would change the lives of hundreds of individuals and their families facing a language-robbing condition known as aphasia.
Nine months earlier, Nancy Rodman Anguish had known the plight of a friend whose life turned upside down New Year’s day when that friend spoke the last full conversation she would have for the rest of her life. On that day, 57-year-old Ann Semple would suffer a massive stroke resulting in permanent paralysis, a loss of speech, impaired reading, writing and comprehension of language. More than the stroke itself, it was aphasia that catapulted Ann from the ordinary world of a busy and beloved schoolteacher to the alternate reality of pacing tearfully through the halls of the nursing facility that had regretfully become her home. Like so many others with aphasia, after loosing her career, independence and the life she had known, aphasia left a wake of losses in its aftermath. Ann was only one of the approximately 100,000 people in the U.S. each year who acquire aphasia then live in frustration and boredom amidst vast misperception by the general public.
In Midland Texas however, all that changed when Nancy Anguish stepped forward with her big heart, her can-do attitude, and her willingness to explore the daunting job of creating a service to improve the lives of a population that most often retreats into embarrassment and isolation. This was not simply another board on which to serve. With no experience in speech pathology, no roadmap to follow, Nancy immersed herself in a field of healthcare that was only beginning to respond to the long-term needs of those suffering with aphasia around the world. She funded her own expenses to travel with the Center’s staff to Canada’s (and the world’s) most renowned aphasia center. She listened to the most revered leaders in the field. She became more comfortable among WTAC’s clients as she witnessed that character and determination matter more than speech. She was inspired and she would not be quiet.
Nancy utilized her years of public service to invite the network of community leaders to educational luncheons to hear of her knew-found passion and understanding for the plight of people with aphasia. Her tireless attempts to inspire the community’s participation worked.
Respected leadership begets more of the same. The Center has a diverse, high-functioning Board of subsequent leaders who will govern the organization’s future development. Nancy paved the way for the executive director to tell the story and those foundations continue to invest in the Center. Nancy has personally penned thank you after thank you for each annual campaign donation spending countless hours as the organization’s members and its supporters have multiplied. She has moved furniture and moved mountains to ensure her tenure as founding board president would ensure long-term sustainability. In this last year of Nancy’s Board service, West Texas Aphasia Center has grown from a mere idea to a leading organization in the field of aphasia.
Community impact. Helping others.
Stroke is the number one cause of long-term disability in the country and thirty percent of stroke survivors will live out their lives with aphasia. That means one in every 250 people will acquire aphasia according to the National Aphasia Association. In Midland, like cities all over the country, Medicare and other insurance companies fund aphasia treatment an average of eleven days in a hospital and three weeks within a rehabilitation hospital. Nancy Anguish’s dedication to those with aphasia has placed Midland Texas on the national map as one of eight non-profit organizations in North America providing daily services to change the life experience for those impacted by aphasia.
This resource model is just now working itself into the college speech pathology textbooks, yet university students are seeking out WTAC to complete their master’s level speech pathology internships. Nancy Anguish, with no prior experience in aphasia has come to govern an old-fashioned barn raising of sorts – the kind where the leader alerts its citizens of a desperate plight and then, because of her trusted voice, a community rallies and something new is built. In this case, generations of lives will not carry the silenced experience of aphasia all by themselves. There is no magic wand to restore speech, omit the losses and go back to the “normal” life. Yet, because of Nancy Anguish, individuals with aphasia and their families will find each other, regain their dignity and know that there will always be hope, renewed purpose, and a warm, wonderful place to reconstruct a new life worth living.
Ann Semple has long since left the nursing home to live in assisted living, spending weekdays at the West Texas Aphasia Center welcoming newcomers, going on road trips, participating in the book club, conversation groups, gardening and computer lab.
Nancy Rodman Anguish’s character, dedication and action have made Midland County an immeasurably better place. The Board, staff, volunteers and members of the West Texas Aphasia Center hope Nancy will be rewarded with these most prestigious honors.
I’ve worked in the area of communication disorders for thirteen years as a speech-language pathologist. Nancy Anguish has done more to change the lives of those living with the loss of language than a whole panel of professionals in my field. She’s done this by rallying a caring community to pave the way for new, innovative programming that allows individuals living with aphasia to access their world. Social isolation, boredom and frustration do not have to be the reality for those living with aphasia in Midland, Texas because of Nancy’s dedicated service. – Beth Crawford, M.S. CCC/SLP, ACWT.
I have known Nancy since we were children and Nancy never does anything “half way”. Throughout her lifetime, she has dedicated herself to philanthropy, not just with contributions of money but contributions of time. Nancy never takes on a project unless she truly believes in the mission. As President of the West Texas Aphasia Center Board, Nancy has led the organization to outstanding successes. Without Nancy’s leadership and determination, the WTAC would not be where it is today in such “short, record time”. Nancy is a perfect fit with the criteria of the Jefferson Award. – Barbara Jowell, Executive Director, Midland Memorial Hospital Foundation.
I hope in a very long time, when we both go to heaven, Nancy Anguish and I get seats next to each other by the chocolate dessert table. She is one person with whom I will be glad I got to share a grand, grand adventure. – Kathryn Shelley, Executive Director, Aphasia Center West Texas.