U.S. Senate Candidate Thompson Visits Campus

Tommy Thompson (left) and aide Ben Voelkel (center) visit with Dr. Mike Dean.

“You have a nursing program?” “You have ROTC?” “Wait, you have a Sport Management degree?”

Former Wisconsin Governor and U.S. Senate candidate Tommy Thompson seemed surprised at the breadth of education available at Maranatha when he visited campus July 13. The surprise was warranted; after all, Maranatha has come a long way since Thompson was last on campus in the fall of 1986. The Dining Complex and Cedarholm Library are just physical manifestations of numerous program additions over those 26 years.

Thompson visited campus on his way to a fundraiser in Jefferson and an appearance at the Jefferson County Fair. His impromptu roundtable discussion with representatives of various departments, the College administration, and the Board of Trustees, touched on three topics: external pressures, internal needs, and the School Choice program.

Dr. John Brock, Vice President for Academic Affairs, was quick to answer when Thompson asked about the biggest problem Maranatha faces. Brock said some want to require Maranatha to hire employees from “outside of the our faith.”

“Our students are taught to have love and compassion for everyone, regardless of race or gender or sexual orientation,” Brock said, “but we can’t hire everyone.”

Thompson asked, “Are you worried about this anti-Christianity movement that seems to be prevalent?”

Brock said that there is concern that formerly neutral government entities appear ready to oppose Christianity. Maranatha’s accreditation and certifications depends on approval by federal and state government offices.

“You have values; it’s your foundation,” Thompson said.

Tommy Thompson responds as Kelly Crum listens on.The conversation moved toward school choice. Dr. Mike Dean, member of the Maranatha Board of Trustees, pointed out Thompson’s record as the driving force behind Milwaukee’s School Choice program. This program has allowed many underprivileged public school students to enroll in religious and private schools. Dean suggested legislation that would require states to make provision for school choice as a condition of federal funding.

Thompson joked, “You’re a bunch of radicals down here!” but noted that he would like to see School Choice expand beyond the 22 states that have adopted some form of the program.

Discussion of Maranatha’s academic offerings led to the topic of the rapidly expanding nursing program. Thompson’s wife, Sue Ann, is the founder of the Wisconsin Women’s Health Organization.

“Let me applaud you for getting into nursing,” Thompson said. “Our biggest challenge is finding nurse educators.”

Nursing Department Chair Kelly Crum said the Maranatha administration has supported her department by providing educational funding for nurses with bachelor’s degrees who would like to teach after earning their master’s degrees. The program also has matured to the point of being able to hire former students as faculty members.

Director of Development Steve Board was able to share some of Maranatha’s long-term goals with the former governor. Board added that, although Maranatha offers ministry programs, the College wants to teach all of its students to become Christian leaders in their communities and throughout the world.

“God has done well for you,” Thompson said.

Thompson will be on the Aug. 14 primary ballot as a Republican candidate running for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Herb Kohl (D-WI). Thompson served as Wisconsin’s 42nd governor from 1987 to 2001 before being appointed Health and Human Services Secretary by President George W. Bush. He served on Bush’s Cabinet until 2005.

–By Jody Kibler