The University Libraries Acquires the Kenneth W. Thompson Collection

Posted: July 15, 2011 at 1:03 am, Last Updated: July 15, 2011 at 4:53 pm

By Kathleen Kehoe, director of development for the University Libraries

Kenneth W. Thompson. Photo courtesy of Kenneth C. Thompson

The University Libraries has announced the acquisition, through a gift, of Kenneth W. Thompson’s library. A noted academic and author who served as the director for the Miller Center for Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, Thompson is known for his contributions to normative theory in international relations.

Thompson’s long and distinguished career has spanned academia and institutional philanthropy.

From 1955 to 1975, Thompson worked for the Rockefeller Foundation, becoming its vice president for international programs.

He also taught at the University of Chicago, Northwestern University and the University of Virginia, where he directed the Miller Center from 1978 to1998 and afterward headed its Forum Program until 2004.

Thompson currently resides in Charlottesville, Va. One of his sons, Kenneth (Ken) C. Thompson, is a term associate professor in Mason’s English Department.

The collection of some 5,700 items donated to the university includes approximately 3,000 monographs covering world history, international relations, diplomatic relations, military history, law, the American presidency, espionage, international education and the Cold War and the Soviet Union.

Many of the books, journals, personal correspondence and notes in the collection and letters indicate that Thompson worked closely with influential intellectuals of the 20th century, such as Hans Morgenthau, Arnold Toynbee and Reinhold Niebuhr.

In addition, items in the collection provide insight to the relationship between Thompson and the authors. For example, Ron Suskind’s book, “The Price of Loyalty,” has personal notes from both the author and former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, demonstrating a significant network of collaborators.

“Throughout his career in scholarship and his work at the Miller Center at the University of Virginia, Kenneth Thompson accumulated a formidable collection of books on international affairs, American government and public policy,” says James Pfiffner, University Professor in Mason’s School of Public Policy. “His decision to locate the Kenneth Thompson Collection at the George Mason library will be a great boon for Mason students and faculty.”

Thompson’s contribution to American public affairs broadly included his key involvement as director of the Miller Center, in the organization and work of eight national commissions on topics such as separation of powers, the selection of federal judges, choosing and using vice presidents, presidential disability, presidential transitions and foreign policy and the presidential nominating process.

“This collection provides invaluable research material and gives a historical snapshot of legal, political and military relations between the United States and international interests during a fascinating time period,” comments John Zenelis, university librarian.

“Developed over a career by such a noted political scientist, this personal library is an asset to George Mason and many of our academic programs across the university,” he adds.

Plans are under way to catalog the collection, which is expected to be located at the Arlington Campus Library.

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