FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Date: March 20, 2002
Contact: Cheryl D. Peck
Former Governor Thompson UIS commencement speaker
SPRINGFIELD - James R. Thompson, Illinois’ longest-serving governor, will deliver the commencement address at the University of Illinois at Springfield on Saturday, May 18. He will also be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters at the ceremony.
“Former Governor Jim Thompson exemplifies a commitment to public affairs through a lifetime of accomplishments and professional and personal achievements,” said UIS Chancellor Richard Ringeisen. “We are very pleased that he has agreed to be our commencement speaker. And given our public affairs emphasis, we think it only fitting to award him an honorary degree.”
Thompson is the only person elected to four terms as Illinois governor, a position he held from 1977 to 1991. A popular Republican known as “Big Jim,” he first ran for governor in 1976 at the age of 40 and won 65 percent of the vote, a record at that time.
In a book titled Mostly Good and Competent Men written by Robert P. Howard and published by Sangamon State University and the Illinois State Historical Society, Thompson was described as “a master of the negotiated compromise and a specialist in getting along with Democrats. A spontaneous speaker, he was gregarious, media-savvy and informal. A flamboyant politician, Thompson clearly enjoyed being with people and being governor.”
During his 14 years as governor, in addition to promoting economic development and increasing funding for education, Thompson was often praised for bringing political adversaries together to discuss and significantly address the state’s major problems.
Thompson is now chairman of the law firm of Winston & Strawn, headquartered in Chicago. He first joined Winston & Strawn in 1975 and then rejoined the firm as a partner when he left the governor’s office in 1991. The firm’s Chicago office received the Minority Corporation Counsel Association’s 2000 Sager Award for its efforts in developing and executing effective diversity policies and programs.
Born in 1936, Thompson was raised in Chicago. He married Jayne Ann Carr of Oak Park in 1976. They have one daughter, Samantha, born in 1978. Thompson attended the University of Illinois and graduated from Washington University and the Northwestern University Law School.
From 1959 to 1964, he served in the Cook County state’s attorney’s office. He then taught at the Northwestern Law School and, in 1971, became U.S. Attorney for the Northern District, where he gained name recognition and established a solid reputation for prosecuting corrupt public officials. From that position he launched his career as an elected official.
Thompson remains civically active on numerous boards and committees. He is chairman of the Illinois Math and Science Academy and serves on the boards of trustees of the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Art.