Alumni Spotlight

Anthony Baxter, PhD ’89

'Today, I regard GSE professors as my colleagues, but before that they were my heroes.'

Earning my PhD in 1989 at the Stanford GSE was the capstone experience in my quest to become a psychologist. It was a journey that began 10 years earlier when, after seeing myself in a vivid dream as a psychologist, I committed myself to making my dream real. I left my position as a journeyman welder, a boilermaker, enrolled at City College of San Francisco, and 10 years later… But let me start at the beginning.

Coming of age in the environs of an inner-city urban American community during the turbulent 60s, I was a self-identified “street brother,” no stranger to struggle and strife. Before receiving my PhD, I struggled to overcome alcoholism, my prison record, and PTSD resulting from adverse childhood experiences and the traumatizing effects of institutionalized racism, which is particularly salient in criminal justice.

Ironically, over the course of my 10-year journey, my background served me well. After graduating from San Francisco City College, San Francisco State, and Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, I came to Stanford as an intellectually fearless free-thinker determined to study ‘commitment’ (the motivational dynamic which I employed to overcome institutional barriers and the deficiencies of my background).

Completing my PhD in three years, I thrived in the GSE’s intellectually rich environment, availing myself of a professoriate where I was surrounded by world-renowned scholar-practitioners who modeled for me not only how to create and produce knowledge, but also why doing so is necessary for human growth and development. 

Today, I regard GSE professors as my colleagues, but before that they were my heroes. As one feisty professor put it, “You can complain about racism, you can endure it, but you cannot ignore it! Use the tools we gave you to change the world!” And, I do so, one soul at a time.”

Anthony Baxter earned his PhD in 1989 in Psychological Studies in Education. He is a special staff officer for the U.S. Marine Corps. He has written the book From Prisoner to PhD: Reflections on My Pathway to Desistance from Crime and Addiction, published in May 2016 by Xlibris U.S.