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Davis Journal

Jackie Thompson awarded honorary doctorate degree from U of U

Jun 09, 2022 10:25AM ● By Becky Ginos

SALT LAKE CITY—Davis School District Assistant Superintendent Dr. Jackie Thompson was one of three women who received honorary doctorate degrees from the University of Utah at commencement held May 5. Her fellow recipients were Karen Huntsman and Ruth Walker. It was the first time the university awarded three women with the honorary degree. 

“The committee meets every summer to discuss names of those who make a big difference and change in the community,” said Danielle Keddington, Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff

Office of the President at the University of Utah. “Jackie was honored for the work she is doing in the Davis School District and her civil rights work. She’s a wonderful person who is changing the lives of youth in the state.”

This is not her first one, said Keddington. “She’s received multiple doctorates from other universities. The honor is based on their values of courage, compassion, service and generosity during their professional careers that represent the values of our university community. It’s the highest distinction the university gives to non alumni. You can be an alumni but she is not.”

Thompson came back to the district in December 2021 after her retirement in 2017. In her new role as Assistant Superintendent she will be working on diversity and equity issues and with the Department of Justice as part of the district settlement. 

“I was born in Tennessee and I’m the oldest of nine children,” said Thompson. “My father was in the Air Force so we traveled a lot. My father retired in Sacramento so I went to high school in Sacramento. By the time I was 18 and going off to college my mother said, ‘Jacqueline you’d make a good nurse.’ I said, ‘mom it’s too late. My teacher said I should be a teacher.’ Plus the blood thing didn’t go over well with me. All I wanted to be was a teacher.”

In her junior year at Sacramento State her counselor suggested that she take her classes with a black emphasis. “I said, ‘what’s that?’” said Thompson. “He said I could take classes about blacks in history, blacks in government, blacks in film. That’s when I really developed and found out who I was and more about my heritage.”

In 1987, Thompson developed an African American outreach program that went on to inspire thousands of school kids across the state.

“We thought, what if we become living history for the students,” she said. “What if we portray people like Jackie Robinson and Martin Luther King. That went over so well we continued to do those character portrayals.”

During her career Thompson has received numerous awards for her work with civil rights and gender equity such as the Spirit of the American Woman Award for Public Education and the Utah Woman’s Achievement Award from the Governor’s Commission for Women and Families.

However, education is still her first love. “When I’m in a school and I see the school children and they are so embracing and so loving, so accepting of what it is we’re doing – that’s what makes me feel happy. That’s what energizes me.”

When Thompson accepted her honorary doctorate she gave the U sign to the crowd. “First I say ‘Go Utes’ then I say to you be everything that you can be,” she said. “Help somebody and help yourself. What you give is what you get. Service to others is the rent you pay for living on earth. Utilize that gift, that God given talent that has been given to you. It’s going to make our world a better place. Remember every person that you meet treat them with kindness, treat them with generosity.” λ