History lessons

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Roosevelt Thompson ’84
Artwork: 2016, by Mirjam Brückner, born 1955
Grace Hopper College Dining Hall

Among my first tasks at Yale was to inventory the endless portraits adorning the walls of Yale’s fourteen residential colleges. Entering Grace Hopper, I found myself
reflecting on the commendable changes made by their community in recent years.
In 2016, the college honored Roosevelt “Rosey” Thompson ’84, naming its dining
room after him and installing a striking abstract portrait by Mirjam Brückner over its central mantelpiece. Thompson, wearing a suit and glasses, is pictured with a mockingbird and apple blossom, the official bird and flower of his home state of Arkansas.

In a university of high achievers, Rosey Thompson stood out. He played football, became president of his college, was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, and volunteered in New Haven public schools. In summer, he interned with Governor Bill Clinton ’73JD. Everyone knew he would accomplish great things—perhaps become president of the United States. Tragically, he was killed in a car accident near the end of his senior year.

When the portrait was unveiled, President Clinton sent Yale a letter. It read, in part: “It was clear to anyone who spent time with Rosey that he was remarkable.” At the tables in the Thompson Dining Hall, Rosey continues to inspire those in his presence.