August 29, 2019

Dr. John Anderson

Dr. John Anderson

Dr. John Joseph Baxter Anderson, 85, of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, passed away August 21 at UNC Hospitals.

He was born in Cleveland, Ohio, to the late Francis Anderson and Phyllis Wallbridge Anderson. He was preceded in death by his older brother, William Anderson.

Anderson is survived by his loving wife of 62 years, Elizabeth “Betsey” Anderson, along with their three sons and their families.

“Beloved by faculty, staff and students throughout the School, John was an esteemed colleague, mentor and friend,” said Elizabeth Mayer-Davis, PhD, Cary C. Boshamer Distinguished Professor of Nutrition and Medicine and chair of the nutrition department. “So many of us recall recent conversations with him, always with a smile and words of encouragement. John exemplified our mission to improve health around the globe. It was a privilege to know him; he will be dearly missed.”

Anderson was a graduate of University School in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in history. He held a master’s degree in secondary education from Harvard University, a master’s degree in biology from Boston University and a doctorate in physical biology from Cornell University.

Upon graduation from Cornell, he joined the faculty at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine. In 1971, he and his family moved to Chapel Hill, where he was a visiting assistant professor with the UNC Department of Surgery.

In 1972, he became an assistant professor of nutrition in the UNC School of Public Health. He was promoted to professor in 1977 and held that position until his retirement in 2007. He became a professor emeritus upon his retirement and continued to work in his office almost daily — a well-known friendly face around the Gillings School. He never stopped writing, and he was working to complete a project for publication at the time of his death.

Anderson was renowned for a lifetime of mentoring faculty and students alike, giving freely of his time to encourage and provide expertise. It is notable that he chaired the Minority Curriculum Affairs Committee at UNC, which was created in 1974. This committee provided early support for what is now the Minority Health Conference, the largest and longest-running student-led health conference in the country.

According to his colleagues, Anderson was well known for his research related to calcium and bone metabolism, which contributed greatly to scientific understanding of the non- pharmacologic management of osteoporosis. He was a member of many professional organizations and served on the editorial boards of multiple journals. He was past president of the American College of Nutrition, and he received a Distinguished Service Award from the American Heart Association and a Distinguished Career Award from the American College of Nutrition.

Anderson and his wife, Betsey, were married in Weld, Maine, in 1957. After stops in Boston, Massachusetts, Ithaca, New York, and Urbana, Illinois, Chapel Hill became home for the Anderson family in 1971. Every summer until 2019, the Andersons returned to the family cottage in Weld, where they had many life-long friends.

In addition to his numerous professional accomplishments, Anderson stayed active for many years refereeing football, basketball, baseball and lacrosse games at every amateur level – from junior high to college. He regularly coached his sons in sports and was active in their schools’ Parent Teacher Associations. In the early 1970s, he was named Chapel Hill’s “Father of the Year.” Later, as a grandfather, he loved watching his grandchildren participate in their many sports and other activities.

Anderson was much loved for his warmth, curiosity and openness toward others. He made all feel welcomed and valued, and he often became a true friend a few minutes after meeting someone for the first time.

A memorial service will be held November 25 at 2 p.m. at University Presbyterian Church in Chapel Hill. A second celebration of life will be held in Weld during the summer of 2020. Donations may be made to the UNC Department of Nutrition in John Anderson’s name at

Condolences may be made at the Omega Funeral Service & Crematory.

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