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October 28, 2010

Senator Francis C. Thompson to receive 2010 ULM Lifetime Achievement Award

It seems appropriate that State Sen. Francis C. Thompson, one of the longest serving members of the Louisiana legislature, occupies an office in an old train depot in downtown Delhi, where so many artifacts highlight his career and personal interests that visitors must question if they have accidentally wandered into a museum.

Mounted trophy deer cover the walls and look out over a room that features an old cast iron stove, railroad memorabilia, framed family photographs, awards, old newspaper clippings and a picture of the classic "Tin Lizzy" automobile — and that's just a start.

But perhaps the greatest summation of Thompson, the teacher, the public servant and family man, is the simple hope that he might one day be remembered as one of Louisiana's leading "education legislators."

On Oct. 30, Thompson will be able to add to his office collection after he is recognized as the 2010 recipient of the ULM Alumni Association's George T. Walker Lifetime Achievement Award during the ULM Alumni Awards Brunch. Founded four years ago, the award recognizes those who distinguish themselves through professional and personal achievement, and who serve the university and the alumni association well over the course of several years.

Keith Brown, executive director of alumni and community relations, said the honor could not have gone to a more deserving person.

"Senator Thompson is a true southern gentleman and statesman who has dedicated his life to enriching ULM, the region and state, for the betterment of all Louisianans," said Brown. "He epitomizes the characteristics of a person worthy of such a distinguished honor."

For Thompson, receiving the award at the annual event will be like coming full circle, since he not only received his Ed.D. in Secondary Education from the university, but also taught in several areas across the ULM campus for nearly 25 years. Before his years as a professor, he taught in the Monroe City School System and served in the Louisiana Department of Education, making him one of the few who can truly say he knows Louisiana education, inside and out. Many of his family members are also members of teaching professions.

"Education is the great equalizer," Thompson said. "It puts people on the same plane, otherwise you'll always have separation."

Thompson has helped push legislation to foster the growth and improvement of education in Louisiana throughout the decades, most recently joining the effort to improve college admissions standards and co-sponsoring TOPS, Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, a series of merit-based scholarships that award amounts equal to tuition at a state public college, university, community college or technical school, or the weighted average of public school tuition at certain in-state private colleges.

Thompson's educational interests has a reach far outside the state. From 1980 to 2000, he served on the legislative advisory council of the Southern Regional Education Board, whose members include several governors, state legislators, senators and prominent educators across the South. He received a gubernatorial appointment to the board of control for the SREB in 2000, a position he still holds.

In his role as a state senator, he serves as chairman of the Agriculture, Forestry, Aquaculture and Rural Development Committee, a position he also held in the House. He served on the House Appropriations Committee and, more currently, serves on the Senate Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget and the Senate Finance Committee. He also serves as a senate member of the select Homeland Security Special Committee, the Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee, and the Labor and Industrial Relations and International Affairs Committee.

Thompson was named one of the Top 10 Most Influential Business Leaders in Northeast Louisiana in the 2004 News-Star poll, and in 2005, inducted into the Louisiana Political Hall of Fame.

Thompson and his wife, Marilyn, have been married 48 years, and have two sons, a daughter and nine grandchildren of whom they are enormously proud.

"I guess I've always been taught by my family that the top three priorities that result in a successful formula for living are, in this order, the Lord, family, and education," he said. "I hope to be able to uphold the standards and same level of commitment as others who have received this honor before me."

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