Peggy Thomson


Honorary Degree (2004)
Doctor of Humane Letters
Location: Indianapolis
Presenter: Adam William Herbert
IUPUI Spirit of Philanthropy Award (2002)


Peg Thomson, who has been a volunteer and leader in addressing the needs of homeless teenagers, disabled adults, and elderly people, as well as in promoting the arts and sciences, "is a woman of exceptional achievement in service to those in need and to her alma mater," says D. Craig Brater, dean of the IU School of Medicine. "She isn't one to just attend board meetings and fundraisers. She is in the mix of things, volunteering and raising money for the handicapped and elderly .... But there is no resume that chronicles these activities or her service to Chicago's Rush University Medical Center and to the Episcopal Charities of Chicago. You do not see Peg Thomson out front; she simply does the work."

A native of Indianapolis, Peg Yockey attended Shortridge High School and earned a bachelor's degree in English from Indiana University. One of IU' s many love stories, her romance with pre-med student Andy Thomson led to a marriage lasting nearly a half century, four children (one of whom received an advanced degree from IU), and five grandchildren.

The Thomsons settled in Chicago, where Andy gained a reputation as a caring internist and a faculty member of Rush University Medical Center, which has named an endowed chair in their honor. In the Chicago area, Peg Thomson has participated as an active board member and volunteer with numerous nonprofit organizations. She received the First Vision Award of The Night Ministry, which serves runaway, addicted, and abused teenagers. "When I met Peg Thomson, The Night Ministry was in its formative stages," says Reverend Thomas J. Behrens, the organization's president. "She gets involved, and her decisive vision is always valued, as is her direct and candid approach." Among other causes close to Thomson's heart are the Over the Rainbow Association, which provides independent living services to disabled adults, and The Admiral, a retirement home in Chicago, of which she is a life trustee.

Sharing a passion for music (nurtured by attending IU concerts), Peg aided Andy Thomson as he chaired a Chicago Symphony Orchestra campaign to raise more than $150 million to enlarge the orchestra's facility. Her husband was out in front, recalls his former colleague Dr. M. Eugene Tardy Jr., professor of clinical otolaryngology at the University of Illinois, "but it was in reality his wife- Peg Thomson -who convinced me to join the supportive effort for the Symphony. Her quiet vision of the new Symphony Center as a teaching organization appealed to me, and the serenity with which she presented this vision was inspiring. Partly due to her involvement, the under-served and Chicago's youth are now able to attend a variety of CSO activities." Thomson remains active as a trustee of the CSO.

Even before Dr. Andy Thomson succumbed to cancer in 1998, the Thomsons were committed to the fight against this devastating disease. The Thomsons helped make possible the construction of the IU Cancer Research Institute, which now stands as part of the IU Cancer Center. Peg Thomson, "together with her husband, made a strong statement to their board colleagues that the answer to cancer is research," says Jerry Throgmartin, chair of the IU Cancer Center Development Board. "She, in a very powerful way, chose to bring hope to other families." The institute, which was instrumental to the IU School of Medicine's National Cancer Institute designation, is already engaged in searching for better treatments for cancer patients and will help in achieving IU President Adam Herbert's goal of making the center one of the top five cancer centers in America and the best in the Midwest within the next five years.

Peg Thomson has assisted IU's educational and cultural mission on many fronts, including helping establish four endowed chairs in a variety of disciplines at Indiana University Bloomington and at the School of Medicine at IUPUI Dr. Michael Koch, chair of the Department of Urology at the IU School of Medicine, notes that Thomson "has had a profound impact" on the department where the Andy Thomson Chair for prostate cancer research now honors her late husband. "We are indebted to her commitment to Indiana University in helping develop a basic science research program," Koch says. At a time of pressing need in education, this support has allowed IU to recruit scholars and scientific researchers of the highest international caliber and to compete with the best schools in the nation.

Frank Edmondson, IU professor emeritus of astronomy, who has known Thomson since her undergraduate days, says, "Peg Thomson is a remarkable woman, making a difference in the world today and for generations to come. For all that she is and does, Indiana University can be proud that she is one of ours."