The Roosevelt "Rosey" Thompson Award
Roosevelt Levander "Rosey" Thompson, son of the Reverend C. R. Thompson and Dorothy L. Thompson, was a 1980 Presidential Scholar from Arkansas and an advisor during the Presidential Scholars Program in 1981 and 1982. A National Merit Scholar, student body president, valedictorian and all-star football player at Little Rock Central High School, Rosey chose to attend Yale University.
At Yale, Rosey was an 5-foot-7, 195-pound offensive lineman on the football team. He was elected president of his college, Calhoun (now Grace Murray Hopper) College. As a junior, Rosey was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa and won Yale's Hart Lyman Prize for high scholarship and character, and was selected as a Truman Scholar. Outside of the classroom, Rosey also spent many hours in the New Haven community and public schools performing public service, and he served as a summer intern for Bill and Hillary Clinton back in Arkansas. During his senior year, Rosey, a history and economics/political science double major, made a perfect score on the LSAT and was selected as one of 32 Rhodes Scholars to attend Oxford University.
Senator Dale Bumpers said of Rosey, "He was a person admired by governors and senators and was sought out by them while still an undergraduate student," but Rosey was also known at Yale for downplaying his own achievements and reaching out to others, including freshmen, as a counselor to new Yale students. Many of his teachers, mentors and friends believed that Rosey would become the first African-American President of the United States--some of them already blocking out dates in 2008 or 2012 to campaign for him in New Hampshire.
On March 22, 1984, Rosey was killed at the age of 22 while driving back to Yale to complete his senior year of college; a truck swerved on the New Jersey Turnpike and hit his car. A full-page obituary of Rosey appeared in Newsweek magazine, entitled "Rosey: He Was the Best of Us."
Rosey's impact on Presidential Scholars is still alive to this day; as well as in Little Rock, where Central High School's auditorium is named for Rosey, as well as a branch of the local library; in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church denomination, which sponsors scholarships and an awards banquet in Rosey's name; and at Yale, where the dining hall at Grace Murray Hopper College is named for him, as well the football team's weight room, and a scholarship.
Now we honor Rosey's memory and impact by naming the inaugural Presidential Scholars award (given by the Presidential Scholars Foundation and Alumni Association, 2017) in memory of Roosevelt Thompson and his commitment to excellence in public service. As his Presidential Scholar classmate, fellow advisor and close friend Marie Miranda (1981, MI) recounted for the Presidential Scholars Foundation 50th anniversary book, “‘Fight the good fight.’ It’s a phrase that dates back to [Rosey’s and my] conversations; it was the description we used. Our world faces difficult, complex problems that people need to engage with passionately and relentlessly. Honor his memory by being one of those people.” On June 19, 2017, we honor three Presidential Scholars who have been those people.