Virginia Henderson, a longtime Madison school psychologist, philanthropist and advocate for the African American community, died Saturday. She was 87.
Henderson spent two decades in the Madison School District as a psychologist and later served as the district’s diversity consultant. She helped establish the African American Ethnic Academy — a program to teach black children about African American culture and heritage — and was a founding member of Women in Focus, an organization for female professionals that provides scholarships to children of color.
“She has been very active in this community and has been a role model for many people for many years,” said Ruben Anthony, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison.
Henderson and her husband, Dr. Perry Henderson, were active philanthropists and volunteers in the Madison area, including in their retirement. She received a doctorate in developmental psychology from the University of New Mexico.
Born a month apart in Cleveland, the couple didn’t get to really know each other until they attended separate colleges in Atlanta, both performing in a joint college orchestra. They married in 1957 and moved to Wisconsin in 1976. She worked as a school psychologist in Madison from 1976 until her retirement in 1997.
Henderson’s efforts earned her a number of awards and accolades through the years.
The couple received the 2003 Dane County Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Recognition Award — an award named after the civil rights icon whom Henderson knew on a first-name basis from when they both studied at Boston University in the mid-1950s, according to a 1997 story by The Capital Times.
She also spent years serving on various boards, including for the Madison Children’s Museum, the Madison Community Foundation and The Evjue Foundation.
“I’m grateful to have served the school district and the many fine families, educators and children I’ve been fortunate to work with,” Henderson said in 1997 upon her retirement.