Memorial Service, Symposium Set to Honor James Thomson, BU Professor, Nieman Director

in College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, College of Communication, News Releases, University Affairs
September 11th, 2002

Contact: Richard Taffe, 617-353-4626 |
Contact: Stephanie Trodello, 617/353-5017 |

Boston, MA — Boston and Harvard universities will hold a memorial service, and later a symposium, on Thursday, September 12, to honor the life of Dr. James C. Thomson, Jr., who died August 11 in Newton, Mass., at the age of 70.

Dr. Thomson, a Boston University professor emeritus and East Asian scholar retired from teaching in 1997. Before joining the faculty at Boston University, he was curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard from 1974 to 1984.

The memorial service will begin at 11 a.m. at Memorial Church, Harvard Yard, followed by a reception at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism, One Francis Ave., Cambridge. After the reception, a shuttle bus will take guests across the Charles River to Boston University, where a symposium honoring Dr. Thomson’s legacy will begin at 3 p.m. in BU’s School of Management, 595 Commonwealth Avenue.

The symposium, “Jim Thomson: Man of Conscience, Mentor and Friend,” will include panelists Anthony Lewis, author and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner who retired last year as a New York Times columnist, and Alex Jones, director of the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard. Also on the panel are Hugo Shong, president of International Data Group – Asia, and Andrew Cohen, CBS legal analyst, two Boston University alumni who were inspired by Dr. Thomson’s teaching.

At Boston University, Dr. Thomson taught history, international relations, and journalism. A graduate of Yale University, Dr. Thomson earned his doctorate at Harvard, and then went to Washington, D.C., where he served in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations at the State Department and the National Security Council. After much soul-searching, he resigned, disillusioned by the escalation of the Vietnam War. He wrote about these struggles in a 1968 article published in the Atlantic Monthly called, “How Could Vietnam Happen?,” now assigned in college courses worldwide and a winner of an Overseas Press Club Award.

A memorial fund will be established at Boston University in Dr. Thomson’s name, to be awarded to an outstanding BU journalism student, to honor and carry forward his legacy for future generations. For further information regarding the memorial events scheduled for Thursday, contact Stephanie Trodello at the College of Communication, 617-353-5017,

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