Obituary: Betty Jo Swayze Anderson

Educator, advocate for equality


Betty Jo Swayze Anderson died on January 10, 2017 at Pilgrim Place in Claremont. She was 88.

She was born in Denver, Colorado on February 17, 1928, the only child of Harry and Bonnie Swayze. She graduated in 1945 from North High School and higher education included the University of Denver, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in theater and speech with a minor in education. In 1950, she received a master’s degree in speech pathology.

Mrs. Anderson’s earliest interest was in music, learning piano in elementary school and flute in junior and high school. She played for four years in the Denver City Orchestra. Her interest in theater also developed early, thanks to her uncle, a city councilman who gave her and her mother free tickets to plays, concerts and operas in Denver. From a young age, she had a burning desire to travel and that desire was not fulfilled until her cousin took her by car to Banff, Canada and later across country by car to Virginia. In the summer of graduation from college, she was able to take a grand tour of Europe.

In 1950-1951 she was an English teacher in a high school in Lyman, Nebraska. From 1951-1955 she was a speech and drama teacher at Northrop Collegiate School for Girls in Minneapolis, and from 1955-1958 she was entertainment director for the Department of Army Civilian Special Services (USO) in Seoul, Korea.

In 1958 she became adult program director at the YWCA of New Orleans, Louisiana, and in 1968 she became the executive director at the height of the civil rights movement. From 1968-1982 she was director of the YWCA of the USA Girls Service Center in Istanbul, Turkey, a vocational training school for girls. 

From 1982-1992 she was director of the YWCA World Relations Department of the YWCA of the United States.

From 1993-1994 she was a World YWCA volunteer trainer and made periodic trips to the Czech Republic, Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Hungary to work with re-emerging YWCAs in these countries. This culminated with an Eastern/Central Leadership Seminar in Prague in 1994, followed by the 100th anniversary of the World YWCA held in Westminster Abbey, London. From November to April 1995, she visited seven other countries including Vietnam and Indonesia. She moved to Pilgrim Place in 1995. Her hobbies included travel, bridge, theater and reading.

In the days since her passing, YWCA colleagues from 21 countries—from Australia to the Netherlands and from India to Kenya—have reached out, giving tribute and sharing memories of this remarkable women.

“Betty Jo Swayze Anderson’s willingness to take risks in support of the values of the World YWCA and its vision of a world with peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all people challenged us,” wrote Joyce Mims, former chair of the YWCA World Service Council. “Her advocacy of the economic, political and spiritual welfare of women worldwide inspired us to do more. Her leadership developed our resilience and strengthened our confidence. Our memories of Betty Jo are affirmations of a world more just, more friendly and more fun. We’re all blessed for having her in our lives.”

She is survived by husband Philip Anderson of Claremont, stepsons Ross Anderson of Marshall, Minnesota and Ray Anderson of Setauket, New York, stepdaughter Amy Doman of Dale, Texas and cousin Marianne Swayze of Peoria, Arizona.

Her memorial service will be on Saturday, February 4 at 3 p.m. in Decker Hall at Pilgrim Place. Contributions in her memory may be made to the World YWCA Service Council, 1020 19th St., Suite 750, Washington, DC 20036 or Pilgrim Place, 625 Mayflower Rd., Claremont, California 91711.  



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