At the mere age of 25 years old, April Anthony decided to dream big, risk everything and achieve what she couldn’t imagine. Today, overseeing two of the largest home health service companies in the nation, Anthony has conquered the impossible, including becoming the first woman to chair of the ACU Board of Trustees.
Outgoing chairman Dr. Barry Packer said Anthony was not only chosen for her experience but also her passion to serve the university.
“April has a love and passion for the mission of ACU and has demonstrated high standards of leadership throughout her life in both her business and her service on the Board of Trustees,” Packer said in an email. “April has an incredibly high work ethic, and she has been able to integrate her faith as a vital part of her work and family life.”
After graduating with a degree in business administration and accounting in 1989, Anthony decided to get out of the public accounting world and rerouted herself to work for a home health company that had four subsidiaries in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
Planning to start a family soon thereafter and hoping to get into a profession with ‘more intensity,’ Anthony didn’t expect any issues behind her job switch. But after being at the company for just 58 days and realizing one of the home-healthcare company’s subsidiaries was in serious financial distress, Anthony was kissed by fate – she bought one of the company’s subsidiaries and became the chief executive officer.
“Through an odd set of circumstances, I ended up buying that subsidiary,” Anthony said. “I just took it over rather than the business closing down, and I assumed it and was able to take it and grow it from there. So, I was 25 years old and at the time, I had only been in the home health industry for 58 days when I became the owner of a home-healthcare company. It was a very unusual path to entering an entrepreneurial experience, and I took it over and absolutely fell in love with what we do.”
Settling Into Her Role
Learning the ropes as she went, Anthony founded Homecare Homebase, a leading software technology platform for the home-health and hospice industries and later, Encompass Home Health & Hospice, a provider of home-care and hospice services. Known as two of the largest healthcare companies in the industry, Anthony took off and continued to grow her companies with faith, courage and her family by her side.
“I learned a long time ago about the idea of balance,” Anthony said. “You know, if you’re trying to be a wife and a mother and a CEO and a Christian and a member of your community, and you just have these opposing forces pulling at your time and that if you think about them as opposing forces, then in fact you hardly ever find balance. And if you do, the reality is that you may be balanced, you maybe have thought of everything, but you’re probably not doing any of it particularly well.
“And so, I began to realize that the best way to think about that is how can I draw all of these things to the center and the closer I can get my priorities together, the closer to success I’ll be. As opposed to saying ‘my family is way over here,’ ‘my work is over there,’ ‘here’s my faith’ and if I keep all of these things apart and try to balance and just thought ‘I need to bring all my things together.'”
Her son, Luke Anthony, sophomore financial management major from Dallas, said in an email his mother always communicated the importance of her job and how it helped people.
“My sisters and I were regulars at the office in our early childhood,” Luke Anthony said, “but later in life she would talk about work experiences and would stress the importance of the lessons she learned in her work. The older we were, the easier it was for her to simply communicate lessons from business that she found applicable to life.”
After taking one look at her calendar and deciding where she spends most of her time, Anthony found out that work was taking the largest chunk. Anthony said she later began figuring out ways to incorporate her faith, family and community into the workplace which later translated into creating their non-profit foundation, Encompass Cares, which provides international medical mission trips for her employees. With dozens of nurses, doctors, clinicians and other skilled professionals, Anthony’s company began financially supporting medical professionals to attend to people in need across their community and around the world.
Unlike most CEOs, Anthony wanted to live out her faith in the workplace and to be true to who she was.
“We began having meetings about being godly in the workplace and what that meant,” Anthony said. “We were going to respect one another. We were going to love our neighbor as ourselves. We were going to follow the rules and do what’s right, and we got to talking about how those godly principles that are living through the scriptures are the keys to success of our business. We would grow and succeed, and people would want to be a part of what we’re doing.”
Taking her work ethic lessons with her, Anthony began branching out and continued to use her funds to bless others. After donating $30 million toward the Vision In Action campaign and serving on the board from 1997-2016 and rejoining last year, Anthony was elected chair of the board in November.
While Anthony said she is a bit anxious to start the role, Luke Anthony said he wasn’t too surprised to hear about his mom’s recent success.
“We were sitting at dinner one night, and she told me that she was going to be serving as the chair of the board,” Luke Anthony said. “I was not surprised at all, as she shows me how competent she is at being in charge daily, whether as a mom, boss, or chair of the board here at ACU. I have learned that the power of being kind and rewarding to others is not to be underestimated. I find this leadership role in higher education as another channel for my mom to show her true character by working with and loving others.”
Setting the Agenda
April Anthony said while her position is more of an overseer of the board and doesn’t necessarily come with more authority, she does have the opportunity to lead the discussion toward what should be on the agenda.
“I think by having a recent graduate last year and having a son at ACU gives me a little bit of perspective than maybe the past board chairs since his children have been at ACU,” Anthony said, “So trying to make sure that the work of the board is relative for our ongoing financial success, but also from a standpoint of how are we creating a distinctive experience that includes not only a quality academic experience, but also high quality social experience that allows students to not only learn at their time at ACU.”
Hoping to bring out the holistic experience, Anthony said she would want to keep in mind the students and the experiences they endure during their time on campus. Thinking about her past experiences as a Tri Kappa Gamma founding member and performing in Sing Song, Anthony said it’s her memories that keep her going and learning what students want from their leadership.
“It seems like every time I step onto campus, I smile about something I remember,” Anthony said. “I think about our intramural championship one year, and that was super fun. We did Sing Song, and it’s always a great memory. And so those songs get engraved in your heads – especially those little key changes that are always creeping up on you. I think it was just intramurals, Sing Song, rush events, bid night event, club socials and grubs and all night study sessions at the Kettle and so, it just seems like every time I drive by campus, those memories just flood back and are just connected to the people that came as a result of that. So, that’s the ACU difference for sure.”
Being one of the few women on the board and the first as the chair, Anthony said she has been inspired by previous board women to stand strong and advocate for women to step into leadership roles in higher education.
While settling into her new position, she said she began to admire women like Mary Prudie Brown and Mary Smith. As some of the first pioneers for women serving on the board, Anthony said they were the epitome of godly women – playing gracefully and firmly in a man’s world.
“They were really the pioneers for involving women on the ACU board and leadership roles at ACU,” Anthony said. “I’m happy to get to continue on in that opportunity, and hopefully more and more women will find their way to the ACU board and pursue opportunities to serve in ways that can impact the future.”
Packer also mentioned how it is important for everyone to utilize their skills for God’s mission – regardless of gender.
“As people of faith, we should affirm that men and women are equally valued in the eyes of God and thus are able to exercise their gifts in roles of ministry and leadership,” Packer said. “I am delighted that the ACU Board of Trustees has chosen April to use her God-given gifts to lead the Board in the years ahead.”
With high hopes and visions for the university, Anthony clings to her past memories as a Kappa, student and fellow Wildcat to prepare the agenda for the necessary changes for the next generations to come.