March 2003

Margaret Abner Dixon, EdD

Educator, Volunteer

Margaret Abner Dixon, EdD, says that, aside from being a wife, mother of three children, and grandmother of four, education and volunteerism are the passions in her life. She is a native of Columbia, South Carolina, and having lost her parents at an early age, was reared by her aunt, Emily Clark Metz, and her grandfather, Mantle Birt Williams. She was imbued with a love of learning and the responsibility for helping others, qualities that have remained with her throughout her life.

Dixon attended public schools in Columbia — Waverly Elementary School and Booker T. Washington High School. She graduated summa cum laude from Allen University and taught at Saxon Elementary School and Booker T. Washington High School. Later in her career, Dixon earned masters’ degrees from Hunter College and New York University, a professional diploma in Educational Leadership from Fordham University, and a Doctor of Education degree from Nova Southeastern University.

She married Octavius Dixon and, following his military service, they settled in Queens, New York, where Dixon entered upon an outstanding career in education. She served as teacher of pupils with severe physical disabilities, director of one of the earliest computer-assisted learning programs, assistant principal, and principal of a 2100 pupil elementary school. This school served as a campus school for the Brooklyn College teachers’ education program, in which Dixon was the supervising principal.

Upon retirement, Dixon and her husband returned to Columbia where they resided for seven years. Margaret became Director of Teacher Education at her alma mater, Allen University. The Dixons became avid volunteers. They served as Laubach literacy tutors and among their students were employees at the governor’s mansion, then occupied by former governor (and former Secretary of Education) Richard Riley. Also, they delivered Meals-on-Wheels and visited elderly shut-ins.

Shortly after relocating to Maryland, Dr. Dixon was asked to take a two-year volunteer assignment with the American Association of Retired People (AARP). She ended up staying for fourteen years in several positions including Minority Affairs Spokesperson, Secretary, Board Member, Vice-President, President-Elect, and President (the only minority president in the history of AARP). In these capacities, she was deeply involved in service to members and communities, legislative research, and numerous other issues that concern the nation’s largest organization for persons 50 and over. She particularly enjoyed giving testimony before congressional committees, urging the passage of legislation to enhance and enrich the lives of persons as they age. She was a frequent visitor to the White House and traveled extensively throughout the world, seeking to share AARP’s experience in improving lives.

Dr. Dixon has received numerous awards. Among them is an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Hunter College. In addition, she was named by Ebony magazine as one of the most effective African-American organization leaders in the United States.