Annual Giving Donor Invests in Liberal Arts

By Elizabeth Pokempner

Lisa Thompson, C’87, came to Penn with a strong interest in math and an ardent desire to learn about almost everything else. At Penn Arts and Sciences, she found the perfect place to do it all. A math major whose transcript includes a diverse mix of liberal arts classes, she describes her undergraduate years in the School as expansive and exhilarating.

It was, says Thompson, a wonderful time to explore what interested her academically. “I loved my math classes,” she explains, but she thrived on the opportunity to follow the broad range of her interests.

Almost 30 years later, her academically varied undergraduate experience continues to fuel the way this New York–based global portfolio manager at an investment management firm headquartered in Los Angeles works every day, as well as the professional choices she has made.

“At Penn,” says Thompson, “I learned to appreciate and to be comfortable exploring. I feel very strongly that I benefitted from that. My focus professionally has always been on finding something intellectually stimulating and fulfilling—and I’ve been very open to whatever that is.”

That willingness to explore and to follow her passions ultimately led her to a successful career in finance. Along the way, she explored other interests, including a job at an architecture firm as well as a two-year evening program in culinary arts. Today, happily pursuing a career in equity management, she continues to thrive on pushing herself in new directions and cultivating new avenues to explore.

It’s a perspective she conveys personally to current Penn students as a member of Penn Arts and Sciences’ Professional Women’s Alliance, the newly formed group that brings College alumnae who are distinguished leaders in their professional fields together to mentor female undergraduates and young alumnae. “There’s no straight path,” she tells the young women she works with as they think about their futures, just “passion and skill.”

Thompson’s generous and long–standing support of the Arts and Sciences Annual Fund is also furthering Penn Arts and Sciences’ ability to ignite in all of its students a commitment to lifelong exploration and discovery. Providing unrestricted dollars that can be put to immediate use, the Annual Fund enables the School to develop and deliver an exceptional liberal arts education. For Thompson, it is the perfect way to empower a school where so many young adults seem, in her words, “on the verge of something great.”