Five questions for Jeannie Thompson

By Staff
thompson jeannie 2008

Jeannie Thompson

Jeannie Thompson (A&S '64, CU-Boulder) is chair of the University of Colorado Foundation's board of directors. The foundation, the university's development and investment-management arm, has 180 employees, boasts more than $100 million in annual fundraising, and manages CU's endowment of nearly $600 million. Last October, Thompson and her husband, Jack, contributed a $2 million gift to the Colorado Initiative in Molecular Biotechnology, citing the value of giving back to the community. Below, Thompson talks about her role as a volunteer and donor, and the foundation's direction as it navigates our current economic downturn.

Why did you choose to pursue leadership roles with CU and the CU Foundation?

I've always been an active volunteer, always been interested in avocational activities. Working with CU is the logical extension of my career life and what I've experienced, and I feel tremendous devotion to the institution.

What are the most important aspects of your job as board chair?

I provide leadership related to board policy-setting and fiduciary responsibilities, and I hope to lead by example from a fundraising perspective. I can also give a viewpoint from the volunteer side that staff can't necessarily convey and be a sounding board for the CEO and president. Active with all committees of the board, I collaborate with them as we determine the policies that guide many of the operations of the foundation. The foundation can toot its own horn, but from my position, I'm able to stand back a bit and see from a volunteer and donor's perspective that there's greatness here.

What are the foundation's top priorities for the next few years?

We need to continue to build our base of donors, come up with strong new prospects, and find new people who can be approached for potential support for the university. Another key priority is to maintain and grow the level of confidence that donors and the general public have shown in the university and the foundation these past several years.

How is the foundation weathering the economic downturn?

At one point this year we were saying, "We'll be happy if we make it to $85 million," and we surpassed $100 million. Given what's happened this past year, I think we're doing better than anticipated. And our endowment maintenance has been strong-protecting on the market downside, and taking advantage of upside opportunities.

We learned that you support several CU programs as a donor.

We supported the new Systems Biotechnology Building at CU-Boulder because of my laboratory background. My husband Jack (also a 1964 CU-Boulder alumnus) is an American historian, so we support the Center of the American West and the history department. Music is something we love; we sponsor the jazz program at the College of Music. We have a real personal affinity for all of these programs.

You are a CU alumna. What has changed most about CU?

I think the university is a much finer institution, providing a better education-certainly the undergraduate offerings in a variety of areas are much greater. When we were here, it was a good school, a wonderful place to be. But now, it is truly first rate.