Volunteer Spotlight

Jere W. Thompson Jr. on What Makes UT Southwestern the ‘Greatest in the Nation’

Chair of Southwestern Medical Foundation’s Board of Trustees shares his vision for the organization’s 80-year partnership with UT Southwestern

While not an engineer by training or vocation, Jere W. Thompson Jr. is a bridge builder. As Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Ambit Energy, he linked his electricity and natural gas provider to more than 1.2 million customers across the U.S., Canada, and Japan. He’s built connections as a civic leader in his hometown of Dallas as past Chairman of the Dallas Citizens Council and through his service on the boards of the O’Donnell Foundation, the Hoblitzelle Foundation, The Dallas Foundation, and Dallas Medical Resource. As Chairman of the North Texas Tollway Authority, he helped transform an agency with a single toll road into a regional transportation powerhouse. And as Chair of Southwestern Medical Foundation’s Board of Trustees, he’s strengthening the organization's 80-year bond with UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Jere W. Thompson Jr.
Jere W. Thompson Jr. Southwestern Medical Foundation

Philanthropy and service to the Foundation and UT Southwestern are a family tradition. Mr. Thompson has followed in the footsteps of his father, Jere Thompson, the former CEO of The Southland Corp., the original corporate parent of 7-Eleven. Last year, Southwestern Medical Foundation honored the Thompson family with The Sprague Award for philanthropic support and community leadership in North Texas.

In his role with the Foundation, Mr. Thompson also serves as an ex-officio member of UT Southwestern’s President’s Advisory Board. The group provides President Daniel K. Podolsky, M.D., and the institution’s leadership with guidance on opportunities and challenges facing the Medical Center.

Drawing on more than two decades of experience as a Trustee of Southwestern Medical Foundation, Mr. Thompson shared his thoughts on the vitality of the partnership with UT Southwestern and priorities for his term as Chair.

As you lead Southwestern Medical Foundation’s Board, what is your priority?

The Foundation’s top priority is to support UT Southwestern Medical Center and its mission. Dr. Podolsky has referred to us as one of UT Southwestern’s key philanthropic partners. We manage $1.2 billion in funds almost entirely dedicated to UT Southwestern, and we make certain that our donors’ intentions are fulfilled. We communicate with existing donors about ongoing activities at UT Southwestern, and we continuously cultivate new donors. The Cary Council is a great example of a new organization recently established to attract a younger generation to support UT Southwestern. My goal is to continue to build on all the success that has come before us.

Where do you see opportunities to build on the Foundation’s partnership with UT Southwestern?

The Dallas community is taking greater notice of what is happening within the UT Southwestern campus. It’s a remarkable story of growth and excellence in medicine, teaching, research, and clinical support. As the pace of growth at UT Southwestern picks up, the opportunity continues to grow for the Foundation to support the institution’s philanthropic needs more broadly.

What are the greatest opportunities for philanthropy to impact academic medicine?

Artificial intelligence will have an enormous impact on medicine and clinical analysis. Using AI will require advanced research and enormous investment. Philanthropy can help accelerate this process.

UT Southwestern’s Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute and Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center are two recent examples where private philanthropy has made a huge impact in building the spaces where advanced research will take place as well as in attracting some of the country’s most accomplished and promising doctors to UT Southwestern.

“We are the lucky beneficiaries of all those who came before us to build this fantastic medical institution.”

How has UT Southwestern impacted you and your family?

Our family has lived in North Texas for the past 150 years. My father tells the story of being hospitalized at St. Paul Hospital, which became part of UT Southwestern, and the nuns who worked there nursed him back to health. So many members of our large, extended family have received care from UT Southwestern doctors over the many years at Zale Lipshy Pavilion and William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital. Personally, I am a leukemia survivor and am here today because of Bob Collins, M.D., and his talented team. We are all so grateful for UT Southwestern.

What do you find most remarkable about the Foundation’s history?

Eighty-four years ago, Edward Cary, M.D., posed the question, “Why not a great medical center in Dallas?” He and a group of Dallas business associates founded Southwestern Medical Foundation as a private organization devoted to promoting health care, research, and education in the southwestern United States. Four years later, in 1943, they broke ground to build a new medical school. A local business leader named Karl Hoblitzelle had helped gather key financial support from the community. No one told them to do it. They did it on their own for the benefit of Dallas.

At a celebratory dinner on the evening of the groundbreaking, the guest speaker said, “If you are going to have a medical school, make it the greatest in the nation. Let it not be only for the Southwest, but for the entire country.” Those words and the trajectory the early leaders set at the very beginning are still the vision and the path that UT Southwestern is on today. It’s an incredible story of philanthropy and commitment from the community and everyone associated with the institution. We are the lucky beneficiaries of all those who came before us to build this fantastic medical institution.

  • Dr. Podolsky holds the Philip O’Bryan Montgomery, Jr., M.D. Distinguished Presidential Chair in Academic Administration, and the Doris and Bryan Wildenthal Distinguished Chair in Medical Science.
  • Dr. Collins is Professor of Internal Medicine and serves as Director of the Blood Cancers/Transplant and Cellular Therapies Program and the Combined Adult/Pediatric Stem Cell Transplant Program. He holds the H. Lloyd and Willye V. Skaggs Professorship in Medical Research and the Sydney and J.L. Huffines Distinguished Chair in Cancer Research in Honor of Eugene Frenkel, M.D.