Barbara Strom Thompson

Barbara Strom Thompson at the 2008 Ohio University Alumni Awards Gala with her husband, Peter Thompson.

Photo courtesy of: Ohio University

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Ohio University mourns the loss of a beloved alumna


Athens, OH – Barbara Strom Thompson of Bethesda, Maryland, died peacefully on Jan. 5, 2015, at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, at the age of 60 following a courageous, year-long battle with ovarian cancer. Her husband of 35 years, Peter Thompson, and daughter Anna Thompson of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, were at her side at the time of her death.

A 1976 graduate of Ohio University’s College of Arts & Sciences, Thompson earned her bachelor of arts in English cum laude, and subsequently earned two master’s degrees, one from the University of Cincinnati in 1978, and another from Georgetown University in 1993.

“Deborah and I join our entire University community in grieving the loss of Barbara Strom Thompson, our dear friend and a dedicated OHIO alumna. Her spirit and love of people was contagious, and we are a stronger university community because of her involvement and leadership,” said President Roderick J. McDavis. “Barbara was a compassionate and visionary leader who gave selflessly to our university community in order to support the advancement of the OHIO student experience. Our hearts are with Barbara’s family in this time of sorrow. May they rest assured that her example will continue to instill the Ohio University community with purpose and passion for many years to come.”

Thompson’s degree from the University of Cincinnati, in early childhood education, provided the springboard to a long career that was focused on service to children and families, including work in day care licensing for the state of Ohio and, after moving to Washington, DC, in 1985, the establishment of a successful consulting practice in which she helped parents and families navigate their way through the challenges of early childhood.

One of her proudest accomplishments was the establishment of Friendship Camp, a summer day camp for young girls that was sponsored by the Parent Encouragement Program of Kensington, Maryland. The camp ran each summer for almost 20 years and focused on fostering leadership and social skills and on encouraging the sort of independent, child-directed play that once flourished in American neighborhoods, but that has become all too rare in the modern era.

A tireless volunteer, Thompson served as the head of the Sidwell Friends School Parents Association in 2001-02, a board member of the Washington Area Women’s Foundation, and in multiple capacities for Ohio University.

While serving as a Trustee of The Ohio University Foundation, she helped launch, and ultimately chaired, the successful Women in Philanthropy program, dedicated to fostering the increased philanthropic engagement of women in the life and work of the University. She also served on Ohio University’s The Promise Lives Campaign Steering Committee, on campaign committees for the College of Arts & Sciences during the Third Century Campaign and the Bicentennial Campaign, and on the Alumni Association Board of Directors.

In recognition of her volunteer efforts, Thompson was named Ohio University’s Alumna of the Year in 2012, an honor made all the more sweet by the fact that it included a featured position in the annual Homecoming parade, riding in the back of a beautiful vintage Corvette convertible.

Thompson was a native of Cincinnati, Ohio, the daughter of Robert Strom and the late Jean Strom. She graduated in 1972 from the public schools of Wyoming, Ohio (a Cincinnati suburb) along with her future husband, whom she had met when they were neighbors at age eight.

She is survived by her husband and daughter; her father; four siblings, Sue (Wayne) Beard, Marcia (Tom) Crosby, Robert (Paula) Strom, and Olaf (Marianne) Strom, all of Cincinnati; 15 beloved nieces and nephews; five cherished great nieces and nephews; and in-laws, aunts, uncles, and cousins with whom she was very close. She also leaves behind a large and loving circle of friends.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015, at 3 p.m. at the Sidwell Friends School Meeting House, 3825 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20016.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that friends consider donating to:

Ohio University’s Women in Philanthropy Endowment: ohio.edu/give

The Washington Area Women’s Foundation, Washington, DC: thewomensfoundation.org

The Foundation for Women’s Cancer, Chicago, Illinois: foundationforwomenscancer.org