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Thelma (Perse) Langdon

Photo of Thelma (Perse) Langdon
19252012 Birthday: 1925 Deceased: 2012

In 1959 Langdon began her involvement in education with Turnagain Elementary School Parent-Teachers Association, where her efforts supported the teachers involved with her children. She continued these activities at the state level where she served as state PTA president and her even-handed, dedicated and visionary leadership contributions to that organization were recognized when Gov. Jay Hammond appointed her to the Alaska state Board of Education in 1975 where she later served as president. In that capacity, she traveled throughout Alaska to many rural communities and always had wonderful stories to tell about the exceptional people she met during those visits. These travels intensified her commitment to seeing that the resources were available and programs were developed that would meet the various needs of the different populations throughout the state.
Langdon later served on the board of Alaska Commission on Post-Secondary Education (1978-82), and on various committees of the Anchorage school district. Through her involvement in educational organizations, Langdon became aware of the many vulnerable children who had little and whose living circumstances were harsh. She realized that these conditions greatly limited the ability of such children to acquire the full benefits of education. This led her to join and participate in the Child Welfare League of America, a national organization dedicated to bring attention and resources to these issues.
At the state level she actively pursued these same objectives. She was instrumental in the creation of the Alaska Office of Child Advocacy in 1971 and served on its board of directors. That commitment is also evident in her founding role in the creation of Action for Alaska’s Children in 1990. In Anchorage she was instrumental in the creation of Big Brothers/Big Sisters, a program designed to provide support for children. She became a strong advocate and supporter of that program.
Langdon served as a role model throughout her life. Her hallmark style was always to work together in a non-confrontational manner and to seek to bridge differences. She did, however, recognize that at certain junctures one had to stand up and fight for principles to accomplish what was right. She especially showed fierce determination to see that the Mental Health Trust Lands set aside by the state constitution should truly be devoted to acquiring the best possible returns from the lands and not simply be a pass-through for cheap land acquisitions by powerful business interests.
Fellow members of boards and non-profit organizations recognized this tough, resilient quality of dedicated persistence in the pursuit of principled actions by honoring her with numerous awards such as: 1993 Mental Health Association, Natalie Gottstein Memorial Award; 1989 Alaska Alliance of the Mentally Ill – Outstanding Dedication and Service to the Mental Health Community; 1988 Mental Health Advocate of the Year – Alaska Mental Health Association; 1987 Women Helping Women Award – Soroptimist International of Anchorage and Soroptimist International of Cook Inlet; 1973 state PTA Humanitarian Award; and in 1963 Honorary Member of Alaska State Medical Association.
Some but not all of the groups that Langdon gave her time to include:
NATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS: 1984-88 American Association of Retired Persons, State Legislative Committee; 1975-83 National Association of State Boards of Education; 1974-76, American Medical Association Auxiliary Board of Directors; 1971-75, National PTA Board of Managers.

STATE ORGANIZATIONS: 1970-73 Alaska Mental Health Association Board of Directors; 1958 Alaska PTA, honorary life member and 1971-75 state president; 1958-1985 Alaska State Medical Society Auxiliary and 1970-74 state president.

SERVICE TO THE STATE OF ALASKA: 1988-1993 Alaska Mental Health Board, 1990, chairman; 1978-82 Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education and 1982 vice president; 1975-80, Alaska State Board of Education and 1978-80 president; 1971-74 Board of Directors, Alaska Office of Child Advocacy and 1973-74 secretary-treasurer; 1970 White House Conference on Children & Youth; chairman, Southcentral Region, delegate to Washington, DC.

LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS: 1990 Action for Alaska’s Children, founding member; 1987-91 Anchorage Child Advocacy, network member; 1985-87 board of directors, Widowed Persons Service; 1985-86 AARP Sourdough Chapter, vice president: 1984-88, board of directors, Alzheimer’s Disease Family Support Group: 1980-82 steering committee for formation, board of directors, Hospice of Anchorage: 1974-76 board of directors, Anchorage Arts Council; 1973-79 board of directors, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Anchorage – 1977 secretary and 1978 vice president; 1968-70 board of directors, Anchorage Mental Health Association; 1959-1976 Turnagain Elementary School PTA – 1965-66 president and 1964-65 secretary; 1958-74 Providence Hospital Auxiliary – 1974 Honorary Life Member, 1970 Volunteer of the Year, 1968 secretary, 1967 treasurer, 1963, president and gift shop bookkeeper for three years.

CIVIC ACTIVITIES: 1986-96 Zonta Club of Anchorage; 1984-90 Municipality of Anchorage Senior Citizens Advisory Commission; 1982-96 Day Break Adult Day Care, Advisory Committee; May 1981 Child Welfare League of America, Regional Conference, Steering Committee and Local Arrangements Committee Chairman; 1971-75 Health Education Curriculum Committee, Anchorage School District; 1970-73 FISH (Friends in Service to Humanity) volunteer; 1968-70 secretary-treasurer, Rotary Anns, Anchorage.
Langdon was awarded her registered nursing degree in 1946 from Minnequa School of Nursing in Pueblo, Colo. She also received additional college credits from St. Louis University and University of Alaska Anchorage. She met J. Ray Langdon, her husband of 34 years, when he was a patient at the hospital where she was working in Pueblo. She found him obnoxious in his flirtations in the beginning, but succumbed to his charms and married him August 20, 1947. Together they lived in six different states between 1947 and 1958 before settling in Anchorage and building their home in Turnagain, where she was able to display her passion for flower gardening. There they raised two boys and three girls.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Anchorage Daily News, Obituary, August 24, 2012


Thelma Langdon is known for her advocacy, activism and volunteering for education, mental health and the challenges of aging. Her leadership on the state Board of Education and a wide number of community non-profit organizations epitomized her commitment to improving lives and finding ways to accomplish her goals. She exemplified how human efforts can make a powerful and positive difference in the lives of others.

Settling in Anchorage in 1958 with her psychiatrist husband, Dr. J. Ray Langdon, she became involved with Providence Medical Auxiliary and Anchorage Mental Health Association, taking on leadership roles in several advocacy programs aimed at creating greater awareness in the general public about mental health. Later Langdon served on the Alaska state Mental Health Board where she actively promoted the responsible revision of the provisions for the use of lands dedicated by the Alaska State Constitution to the support of mental health programs so that they would provide the revenues needed to make improvements in those programs.

Langdon’s civic involvement in activities to provide for children was carried out in numerous organizations where she always sought ways to work together to meet needs and improve services. This led her to be selected the Southcentral Regional Delegate for Alaska at the White House Conference on Children and Youth.

As years went by and she assumed the role of primary caregiver for her father, her attention turned to issues associated with the challenges of aging. Also after her husband passed away at home, Langdon became a strong advocate and supporter of hospice and became active with the Alzheimer’s Disease Family Support Group. Her last leadership role was as the head of the Older Persons Action Group where she led major institutional and financial reform.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech