Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus (1884-1967) was a long-time educator and the first woman high school principal in California, but is better known as the founder of AARP in 1958.
Andrus founded a separate organization, the National Retired Teachers Association (NRTA) in 1947. She realized that retired teachers were living on incredibly small pensions, often without any health insurance. She approached more than 30 companies to offer health insurance to retired teachers, before she found someone willing to take a chance on NRTA members in 1956. The organization then expanded its membership to all retirees and became AARP in 1958.
Today, the NRTA is still a division of AARP, and serves as its educator community. AARP continues to follow Andrus’ guiding principles: Collective voice, collective purchasing power, and the collective ability to do good and give back through service. AARP continues to follow the motto she created, “To serve, not to be served.”
The Ethel Percy Andrus Gerontology Center is named after her at the University of Southern California Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, the oldest and largest existing professional school of Gerontology.
Among Andrus' many accomplishments is a stint as a faculty member at Chicago's Lewis Institute, a predecessor of Illinois Institute of Technology and the first woman high school principal in the state of Calif. She was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1993.