The La Follette School of Public Affairs welcomes the creation of the Tommy G. Thompson Center on Public Leadership at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Since its creation in 1983, the La Follette School has blended nonpartisan rigor in scholarship with a direct application of the Wisconsin Idea in practice. This has led to the La Follette School becoming one of the most highly ranked policy schools in the world, while working closely with policymakers and public and nonprofit organizations in Wisconsin and beyond (for details, see www.lafollette.wisc.edu/about/rankings and www.lafollette.wisc.edu/outreach-public-service).
The La Follette School and UW-Madison’s Department of Political Science developed the concept of the Thompson Center and met with Governor Thompson to propose this idea. Governor Thompson’s rich legacy deserves such recognition. He is a policy iconoclast who values quality research and analysis from across the political spectrum and has been a tireless champion of UW-Madison, his alma mater. As Wisconsin’s longest-serving governor, he is a proven and inspiring leader at a time when we need such qualities in public service. These aspects of his character will define the proposed center.
In recent years, Governor Thompson has engaged with the La Follette School and its students on several occasions. He spoke at the La Follette School’s annual Offner Lecture; and at our 2016 graduation, he told students: “Perhaps no school within the UW System has as great an obligation to embrace the Wisconsin Idea than the school from which you are graduating today.” The La Follette School also nominated him for an honorary degree, which UW-Madison conferred in 2016.
“Governor Thompson is one of the great leaders in Wisconsin history, and we are privileged to honor his legacy,” UW–Madison Chancellor Becky Blank said in a statement after Tuesday’s announcement about the new center.
As with the La Follette School, the Thompson Center will be nonpartisan and focused on quality research to serve the Wisconsin Idea. Faculty from the La Follette School and the Department of Political Science will serve as an advisory committee guiding the Thompson Center. Our faculty looks forward to playing a key role in ensuring that the Thompson Center lives up to the great reputation of its namesake, Governor Thompson.