October 17, 2012

Former Gov. Jim Thompson on campus Oct. 25

by Pete Rosenbery

Jim Thompson

Former Gov. Jim Thompson

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Former Illinois Gov. James R. (Jim) Thompson, the longest serving governor in Illinois history, will speak at Southern Illinois University Carbondale on Thursday, Oct. 25.

"This will be a great opportunity for our students to learn about the importance of public service," Chancellor Rita Cheng said. "We appreciate Gov. Thompson's willingness to share his perspective on politics and on the issues facing Illinois and the nation."

Thompson will discuss "Perspectives on Illinois Government Past, Present and Future," at 7 p.m. in the SIU Student Center. Admission is free, and the public is welcome.

The appearance marks the anniversaries of WSIU-TV and the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute. WSIU-TV is celebrating its 50th anniversary and the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute is marking its 15th year of service. Former U.S. Sen. Alan J. Dixon, whose career in politics spanned 42 years, was also scheduled to appear earlier this month, but the event was canceled due to illness.

The event is part of the Morton-Kenney Public Affairs Lecture Series. Thompson's appearance will also be available via live stream for free on the Institute's website, http://paulsimoninstitute.org/.

"Jim Thompson is a legend of Illinois politics," said David Yepsen, Institute director. "At 14 years, he is the longest-serving governor of our state and was a successful prosecutor before that. He has personally seen and shaped a great deal of Illinois history and can bring the SIU community some insights into the problems the state now faces, and offer his ideas for solving them. And I hope he tells us a few old war stories from his political careers. This will be a treat."

Thompson was governor from 1977 to 1991, and was noted for resolving difficult labor-management problems, helping guide the state through difficult national economic times, and helping early development of the state's business and tourism initiatives. While in office Thompson helped spearhead "Build Illinois," a large, statewide public works campaign, and played an important role in the state's purchase of the Du Quoin State Fair.

The State of Illinois Center, which opened in 1985, was renamed the James R. Thompson Center in 1993 to honor the former governor. Prior to becoming governor Thompson was appointed by President Richard M. Nixon to serve as U.S. Attorney in Chicago, serving from 1971 to 1975. A 1959 graduate of Northwestern University School of Law, Thompson's legal experience also includes work as an assistant state's attorney in Cook County and assistant attorney general in Illinois.

Thompson is currently senior chairman of Winston & Strawn, LLP, a major international law firm based in Chicago that he has been with since 1991. Thompson served on the 9-11 Commission that examined circumstances surrounding the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and has also worked on the legal case involving former Illinois Gov. George H. Ryan.

"Looking back on 50 years of covering political issues in Southern Illinois, what could be more appropriate than having Gov. Thompson back on campus to share his perspectives," said Greg Petrowich, WSIU Public Broadcasting executive director. "This event should be very insightful and the timing during the election season couldn't be better."

Marion Toyota and Allstate Agent Laura Hughes of Carbondale are also event sponsors.

The Morton-Kenney lecture series brings speakers to campus in the spring and fall of each year. Jerome Mileur, originally from Murphysboro, is a professor emeritus in political science at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, retiring in 2004 after a 37-year teaching career there. He earned his bachelor's degree in speech communication in 1955, and a doctorate in government in 1971, both from SIU Carbondale.