Penn State faculty Dennis and Joan Thomson endow graduate fellowship

University Park, Pa. -- Dennis and Joan Thomson, both Penn State faculty members since 1970, have long been known for their commitment to students. For example, they've opened their home for holiday and class-related dinners to more than 350 undergraduate and graduate students. Now they've taken their commitment a major step further, and endowed a Distinguished Graduate Fellowship in the Department of Meteorology in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences.

The Thomsons said they hope the fellowship will call attention to the importance of having special resources available to attract and support graduate students who have exceptional academic records and the potential to make unique contributions to the advancement of the atmospheric sciences.

Dennis Thomson is a professor of meteorology, and Joan Thomson is a professor of agricultural communications. The fellowship will bear their name in recognition of their generosity.

"The Thomsons have a lifestyle of dedication to the core values of the University," said William Easterling, dean of the college. "Their gift helps secure our meteorology department's position at the very top of the field."

The Distinguished Graduate Fellowship program is a University-wide initiative to attract the nation's most capable graduate students to Penn State by increasing the number of available fellowships through philanthropic support. When a fellowship is fully funded at its $250,000 minimum, the University, through the Graduate School and the fellowship's affiliate college, will match the endowment's annual spendable income in perpetuity, thus increasing the amount available to the recipient in the form of tuition aid, a stipend, and health insurance.

"Outstanding atmospheric science and meteorology programs have outstanding graduate students, and competition for these students is intense," said William Brune, head of the Department of Meteorology. "In this environment, graduate fellowships help Penn State recruit and retain the most capable, creative, and innovative advanced-degree candidates. We're deeply grateful for the Thomsons' commitment and the wonderful example they've set for other faculty members and, we hope, our alumni as well."

The Thomsons grew up in rural southwestern Wisconsin, where they still maintain close ties and are involved in philanthropic endeavors, especially the conservation of prairie lands. Between them, they hold six undergraduate and graduate degrees in their respective science and communications fields from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The University of Wisconsin School of Human Ecology has honored Joan Thomson as a Distinguished Alumna.

At Penn State, the Thomsons have also won recognition for special service contributions to the University and their respective academic and professional communities.

For more information about the Distinguished Graduate Fellowship program, visit online.


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Last Updated March 19, 2009