Monica Moore Thompson ’89, ambassador for Princeton
New Alumni Association vice president eager to connect alumni with the University
As an undergraduate, Monica Moore Thompson ’89 aspired to become a diplomat. She did become one, although not in the way she imagined.
Rather than pursue an international career, Moore Thompson serves as an ambassador for her alma mater, reaching out on Princeton’s behalf to alumni in the many ways she has connected to the University: as an alumna and spouse of an alumnus, as a University staff fundraiser, as an Annual Giving and Alumni Association volunteer, as a board member of the Association of Black Princeton Alumni, and as a parent to a member of the Class of 2020. She most recently chaired the Alumni Association’s Committee to Nominate Alumni Trustees.
Now Moore Thompson is taking on the roles of vice president of the Alumni Association and vice chair of the Alumni Council. It’s a natural next step for someone devoted to educational issues who calls herself a “professional trustee.” In addition to her work for Princeton, she has volunteered on the boards of several educational organizations including the Washington, D.C., chapter of Teach for America and two D.C. private schools for boys in elementary through high school grades.
In her new role with the Alumni Association, Moore Thompson said she will focus on encouraging alumni to engage with the University.
“I can see how Princeton has evolved in terms of embracing alumni and recognizing alumni from different cohorts and constituencies — affinity groups, interests, passions, identities — not only from a class member affiliation,” she said. “How we go about continuing to recognize people and connect with community is what I see as part of what I want to do.”
Recently, Moore Thompson conversed with an alumnus from the 1970s who had stayed in touch with classmates and friends but is only now becoming active in University-sponsored efforts. “I think there are lots of alums out there who, after they graduated, for whatever reasons, felt disengaged,” she said, “and so to be able to bring them back into the fold would be great.”
The Campus Years
Moore Thompson was born in South Carolina but grew up less than an hour’s drive from Princeton. Her parents moved the family to New Jersey to earn master’s degrees at Rutgers University and became teachers. When it came time for her college decision, a friend recommended she meet a first-year Princeton student to help her decide between Princeton and Georgetown University for her diplomatic aspirations. That first-year was John Thompson III ’88, now her husband, whose father was a legendary Georgetown basketball coach. Thompson played basketball for Princeton and went on to coach at Princeton and Georgetown; he now is vice president for engagement and development at Monumental Sports.
“John's words were brief and succinct. He said verbatim, ‘You should come to Princeton.’ He claims that I was his first recruit!”
Believing language learning essential for her career aspirations, Moore Thompson signed up for Japanese 101. She still laughs remembering how two of her Mathey College quad mates also were in that class, leaving the fourth bewildered as the three roommates practiced together. She added Spanish in her junior and senior years.
But struggling to pass an economics class with the late Professor Uwe Reinhardt made her shift course. She majored in history rather than applying to what was then called the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
Outside the classroom, Moore Thompson sang in the gospel choir but regretted not being able to continue her training as a classical ballet dancer. “That’s the one thing that I really missed and I’m glad that Princeton now has more robust performing arts opportunities,” she said.
She also got her first taste of promoting Princeton as an Annual Giving Tiger Caller: “They incentivized us with pizza,” she said, “so as a hungry student, I went and made a few calls for a free meal!”
Moore Thompson worked on staff as a University fundraiser for more than five years before 2004, when the family moved from Princeton to Washington, D.C., for her husband’s Georgetown coaching post.
This was not an easy time. The oldest of her three children (Morgan, Class of 2020) was five years old. Just prior to the move, Moore Thompson lost her mother, and soon afterwards, her father. A year later she was diagnosed with breast cancer, but pulled through treatment successfully.
“I was just in survival mode, literally and figuratively, just trying to get everything in place and stable,” she said. “After coming through that, I was like, ‘Okay, now what do I want to do?’”
She took time to figure it out. Her primary focus was her children, but she began to add volunteer work. Then Katherine Brittain Bradley ’86 reached out and suggested she join the D.C. Teach for America board. “And so I did that, and I got involved with a couple of other local organizations, mostly in education, and a few in health care,” she said. “And then I realized that’s really a great way to give back in a meaningful way to organizations that I care about, where their mission is aligned with things that are important to me.”
Looking to the Future
The Thompsons moved recently and while unpacking, Moore Thompson came upon the Campus Plan book that the University produced in 2008 to outline its future vision. Curious, she opened up the “time capsule.”
“Surprisingly, it wasn’t far off,” she said. The plan referenced the expansion of residential facilities and campus growing across Carnegie Lake, for example. What that demonstrated to Moore Thompson is that “Princeton is very careful and deliberate,” she said. “Princeton is in a healthy place and will continue to move in the right direction and make the right decisions as it relates to the students, the academy and as it relates to alumni.”
“We’re only students for four years, but we’re alumni for the rest of our lives,” she said. And, with the Alumni Association, Moore Thompson is glad to be part of that future.