Thad Wilderson, MEd, LP was honored Feb 1 as this years recipient of the John M. Taborn Award for Outstanding Contributions to Psychology by a Person of African Descent. The award was established more than a dozen years ago as a joint endeavor by the Minnesota Psychological Association (MPA) and the Minnesota Chapter of the Association of Black Psychologists (MnABPsi) and renamed in honor of Dr. John Taborn after his recent passing. Dr. Taborn was a trailbazer in terms of the delivery of mental health services to people of African descent in Minnesota. And Thad Wilderson was an early contemporary. Both Taborn and Wilderson launched clinics to serve the Black community of the Twin Cities in the early 1970’s, Taborn’s in Minneapolis and Wilderson’s in St. Paul. Wilderson remarked that even though his clinic had moved offices a number of times, it remained always on the same block of University Avenue where it was originally founded.
Wilderson described that he did not set out to become a psychologist. But rather, his goal was to be a teacher. However, he found that being one of the only Black male teachers in his school meant that he was often called down to the Principle’s office to intervene whenever young Black males got into trouble. He later went on to seek out some of the skills that would help him in those interventions.
Wilderson, a native of New Orleans, completed his BA and MA at Southern University, then had additional course work in a doctoral program at the University of Minnesota. After working as a staff psychologist at Macalester College in St. Paul, he eventually became Director of Psychological Services there, and subsequently an Associate Dean.
He founded his psychology clinic as a side venture, in part because his mother never let him forget that he had an obligation to try to do something for his own people. It eventually became not only his primary focus, but also a launching pad for literally dozens of Minnesota’s Black mental health providers who got their start at Thad Wilderson Associates. Through Thad’s mentorship, they acquired grounding they needed to go on to licensure and/or certification and fill essential roles in Minnesota’s healthcare delivery system.