Always at home: Dave and Jackie Thompson
June 14, 2022
Video by Phil Weiss, BA ’98, MS ’17, University Television
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the tenth installment in the “Forever Home” series, which features video interviews of those who have chosen to make Macomb (and/or WIU) their home.
By Jodi Pospeschil, MA ’15
MACOMB, IL — If ever there was a couple who defined selflessly giving back to the Macomb and Western Illinois University communities in myriad ways, it would be Dave and Jackie Thompson.
Dave graduated from WIU in Political Science in 1972, and Jackie received her Bachelor’s degree from the Board of Governors (now General Studies) in 1985 and her Master’s in Educational Administration in 1994. Jackie is the Vice President Emeritus of the administrative services at WIU. , retired in 2011, and Dave spent his career as an agent with Northwestern Mutual Financial, retiring after 46 years with the company.
The couple first met when they were both part of a local Republican youth organization in the early 1970s. Their first date was a retirement party for the late Marcy Bodine, professor emeritus of the WIU Department of Political Science. The pair dated for several years, during what they called a “crazy, fun time at Macomb.” They married in 1976 and both remember Dave’s proposal as “very laid back”.
“We were sitting on the couch in his apartment and I was like, ‘By the way, what do you think Jackie, do you want to get married or not,'” Dave said. “It was very simple.”
After the wedding, Dave’s friends and family members, some of whom were police officers, handcuffed him to a stop sign in Table Grove, a rural part of Fulton County.
“I probably had to because of some of the things I had done to other people at their weddings,” Dave said. “Those were fun days.”
Jackie graduated from the VIT School District in 1968 and went to Robert Morris College in Carthage, where she earned an Associate’s degree in Secretarial Science. She came to WIU in 1970, starting as secretary for auxiliary services and facilities planning. She completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees while working full-time at Western.
“I think when I retired in 2011 I called it ‘a pretty amazing journey’ and I think that’s one of the reasons I love Western so much,” Jackie said. “It allowed me to get two degrees, while working full time, and it really gave me opportunities that when I started in 1970 I never imagined I would have. When I became vice president in 1997, it was an incredible event for me to think that I started as a secretary and with the support, mentorship and education I received, I was able to become a vice president. -president of this same university.
Dave started his studies at WIU believing he wanted to be a teacher and received a scholarship to take classes.
“It was sort of inevitable for me to go to WIU,” he said.
After teaching students, he realized that was not the career path he envisioned. It was Jim Garner, a former Macomb resident, also a WIU graduate, who brought him into the career lap of Northwestern Mutual Financial.
Dave was a Boy Scout in his younger years and became an Eagle Scout in 1963. His father served in World War II and advised him to get a military commission if he wanted a military career. A year after graduating from high school, Dave joined the Illinois National Guard and entered active duty and completed a basic officer course, graduating as a second lieutenant in the infantry. .
He then served with B Battery, 123rd Field Artillery, based at Macomb. He eventually assumed command of the local unit for nine years.
“It was a great opportunity for me to command a Guards unit in my hometown,” he said. “It worked well for me. Twenty-two years later I retired as a lieutenant colonel.”
Pride of Service
Dave retired, after 46 years, as one of the top producers with Northwestern Mutual. He was number 15 in career production in the company the day he retired.
The couple joke that Dave wasn’t allowed to retire from Northwestern Mutual until he had something else to do, so they bought a small property near Macomb with a cabin, lots of wooded areas and trails, where he spends part of his time. Since retirement, Jackie has served on the Prairie Land Conservancy Board of Trustees and the WIU Foundation Executive Committee, and served as Chair of the WIU Alumni Council. She also enjoys playing the canasta.
The couple also enjoy spending time with their family and at their Lake of the Ozarks vacation home.
It’s nice that we can do some extra stuff and don’t have to rush because he’s working,” Jackie said.
For the Thompsons, giving back is more about meeting the needs they encounter at WIU and in the community. Both also volunteer their time, serving on numerous boards at Macomb and the University. They are the definition of maintaining a Town and Gown relationship.
“I think what’s unique is that Dave was community-based, employment-wise – he had his activities at MAEDCO, Rotary and the Enterprise Zone,” Jackie said. “I was in college, so we really brought those two things together. It’s what helped us connect the city and the dress personally and professionally.”
The Macomb and WIU couple’s many gifts are highlighted by projects such as the new two-acre Jackie and Dave Thompson Dog Park, inside Patton Park, and the statue of Ray “Rock” Hanson which stands in outside of Hanson Field.
“We decided to fund the dog park as a Christmas gift to Macomb,” Jackie said. “It was around the same time that everything was shutting down again due to COVID and you could just smell the air coming out of the community.”
The donation was made while Dave was having lunch with Macomb Park District Manager Rachel Lenz. The two started talking about the proposed project to increase the size and offerings of the previous facility.
“I don’t think I knew how much of a need there was,” Dave said of the dog park. “On a nice afternoon, this park is full.”
While Jackie worked at Western, the couple endowed the Jackie and Dave Thompson Scholarship through payroll deduction. The $1,000 scholarship is given to a freshman in the Vermont-Ipava-Table Grove (VIT) School District. After his retirement, Dave donated $25,000 to endow a second scholarship, the Dave and Jackie Thompson Scholarship, in honor of Jackie’s service to the University. This scholarship, of $1,000 per year for four years, is awarded to a graduate of Macomb High School, preferably a dependent from a military family.
“For me, it’s really giving back to those who have helped me… who have helped both of us,” Jackie said. “The first major gift we made was a scholarship, for my high school, VIT. I wanted to make sure that a student from a small school like VIT would have the opportunity to come to Western.”
Dave said the couple’s roots in western Illinois made it easy to decide who to award the scholarship money to.
“Macomb made it easy for me,” Dave said. “I’ve had some great experiences here.”
Looking back and paying for the future
A conversation over dinner with WIU Foundation Executive Director Brad Bainter and Assistant Vice President of Alumni Relations Amy Spelman about former Leatherneck trainer and athletic director Ray “Rock” Hanson, turned into a donation from the Thompsons to create a statue in honor of Hanson.
The statue was created by WIU Associate Professor of Art, Duke Oursler, and was unveiled outside Hanson Field in 2017.
“We’re the Leathernecks because of him,” Jackie said of Hanson. “As people move on, we can’t forget why we’re here. This statue is still a bit surreal to me. I’m really glad it’s getting the respect it commands. I wish he could look down today and see the statue. We, as a community and campus, owe him a lot.
Other campus donations by the couple include the Col. Rock Live mascot endowment, to ensure WIU always has a live mascot program, WIU’s annual giving day, WIU Athletics, the Association of alumni, the Performing Arts Society, and the Fallen Soldiers 5K run/walk.
Dave received the Alumni Achievement Award in 1986 and Jackie in 2003. Dave was named Macomb Citizen of the Year in 2006 and has held leadership positions on numerous local councils including Chairman and Member of the Macomb Area Economic Development Corporation and a longtime member of the Macomb Rotary Club, receiving the Paul Harris Award.
Jackie has received the Outstanding Community Service Award, Director of Affirmative Action Award, and the Isaac and Ethel Leighty Award from McDonough County United Way.
The couple said they have never regretted making Macomb their permanent home.
“I don’t think we ever thought about leaving,” Jackie said. “Macomb is a very wonderful community. Our family is here – it’s just a natural fit for us. The one thing some people don’t realize is that because of Western, Macomb has a lot to offer. I think there are real opportunities here.”
Dave said local people are what make the community and the university strong.
“Macomb gives me what I’m looking for, lots of security, lots of security,” Dave said. “We have good schools, a good hospital; it changes all the time. I feel good here. If you’re looking for that kind of vibe, where else will I go?
For more information about WIU, visit wiu.edu.
Posted by: Jodi Pospeschil ([email protected])
University Communications and Marketing Office