O. Jay and Pat Tomson
O. Jay and Pat Tomson accept an award honoring them for their commitment to Lutheran colleges.

By Emily Christensen

PATRICIA TOMSON REMEMBERS THE FIRST TIME she was able to give back. The college senior gifted $10 to her class gift collection at St. Olaf College.

“It seemed like a lot of money then,” she said.

Her husband, O. Jay, is certain his first gift came about the same time. Now, decades later, the couple has been recognized by the Council of Independent Colleges for a lifetime of philanthropy. President Darrel Colson and Richard Torgerson, Luther College’s president and Wartburg’s former vice president for development, nominated the Tomsons.

“Through their long and generous history of supporting private, liberal arts education in the Midwest, Jay and Pat have invested significantly in the lives of literally thousands of students,” Colson wrote in his nomination letter. “In addition, both have graciously shared gifts of service and leadership, beyond just financial support, to help ensure that young men and women have an opportunity to be transformed by their college experience and, in turn, are empowered to transform their families and their communities.”

The Tomsons’ gifts, totaling in the millions, have supported Wartburg (their daughter Sara Tomson Hooper is a 1989 graduate), Luther College (their daughter Marti is an alumna), and St. Olaf, where the two met.

“As you go through life, you hopefully develop a passion for something. Ours is Lutheran higher education. We are strong supporters of the liberal arts. This country cries out for informed leadership, and democracy will not thrive without an informed and committed citizenry,” said Jay Tomson, a former member of the Wartburg Board of Regents. “That is what these colleges are doing for this country.”

At Wartburg, the Tomsons’ gifts helped create the James A. Leach Chair in Banking and Monetary Economics (held by Dr. Scott Fullwiler) and the O. Jay and Patricia Tomson Professorship in Social Work. An additional gift upgraded the professorship to the Tomson Family Distinguished Chair in Social Work (held by Dr. Tammy Faux).

The 2012 Wartburg Medal recipients also supported the Vogel Library capital campaign and multiple Christmas with

Wartburg productions.

“All of our gifts are in appreciation of what we received from a liberal arts college,” Pat said. “We give back so that they can continue to do all the things they are already doing so well.”