Distinguished Public Leadership Award

Tommy G. Thompson Distinguished Public Leadership Award

DPLA Nomination Form

Tommy G. Thompson served in elected office as a representative in the Wisconsin State Assembly (1973-1987) and as Wisconsin’s longest-serving Governor (1987-2001).  He accepted the call to public leadership and proudly worked with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to advance the public good.

Consistent with Tommy’s legacy, the Tommy G. Thompson Distinguished Public Leadership Award seeks to recognize Wisconsinites who have committed themselves to public service, worked tirelessly to advance sound public policy, and exhibited virtuous leadership.  This award seeks to recognize leaders who have exercised sound judgment and an entrepreneurial spirit, and served as exceptional role models for others in public service.

 Nomination Eligibility Criteria

A Distinguished Public Leadership Award nomination must include a description of the nominee’s significant law practice, judicial practice, legislative, public administration, and/or public policy achievements. Please email thompsoncenter@wisc.edu for any questions.

In addition, a nominee must:

  • Be a Wisconsin resident;
  • Have served Wisconsin in an elected, appointed, or civil service leadership role in local, state, or federal government office;
  • Have exhibited a collegial approach to public service and an ability to work effectively with citizens and colleagues from all walks of life in the spirit of Governor Thompson; and
  • Not have previously received this award.

Process & Timeline

In the beginning of each academic year, the Tommy G. Thompson Center on Public Leadership will solicit nominations for the Tommy G. Thompson Distinguished Public Leadership Award. The 2024 nomination deadline is November 17, 2023.

The Faculty Advisory Committee and Public Leadership Board will appoint a panel to review nominees and select no more than five (5) finalists to forward to the Faculty Advisory Committee and Public Leadership Board for consideration as award recipients. The panel will include at least one representative of the following:

The Thompson Center will hold at least one event to honor award recipients. Award recipients will receive a plaque and may be offered the opportunity to provide remarks on public leadership.


Previous Winners

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David Prosser

Justice David Prosser is an American jurist and politician who served on the Wisconsin Supreme Court from 1998 to 2016. Prosser was appointed by Governor Tommy Thompson, resulting in a bipartisan group of 77 of the 132 state legislators sending a letter of support of the appointment to the Governor. Prior to this appointment, Prosser served in the Wisconsin State Assembly from 1979-1996 representing the Appleton area. During his tenure in the Assembly, he served six years as Minority leader and two years as Speaker. In 1996, toward the end of Prosser’s tenure, Madison Magazine reporter, Chuck Nowlen surveyed more than 400 Wisconsin lawmakers and local lobbyists, asking them to rank legislators in various categories – good and bad. Prosser’s colleagues rated him at the top in the categories: hardest worker, smartest man/woman of principle and best orator (tie with Senator Michael Ellis of Neenah). Prosser served as a member of the Wisconsin Council of Criminal Justice, Judicial Council Commission on Preliminary Examinations, the Wisconsin Sentencing Commission, the Wisconsin Sesquicentennial Commission, and the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws.



Bob Lang

Bob Lang is the standard-bearer for collegiality and nonpartisan leadership in Wisconsin. That he does so in a highly political environment and has not wavered during unprecedented times of partisanship and gridlock demonstrates his worthiness for this award. His tenure stretches across the terms of nine governors, from Patrick Lucey to Tony Evers.

In 1977, a bipartisan committee, which included then-Rep. Tommy Thompson, resoundingly supported Mr. Lang’s appointment as LFB director. He has proven his commitment to collegial public service ever since, leading an agency that is respected across political parties for its fair and accurate fiscal and program information and analyses to the Legislature, its committees, and individual legislators.

During his nearly 50-year LFB career, he has ensured that the Legislative Fiscal Bureau’s work products are of the highest quality: accurate, balanced, timely, and responsive to legislators’ needs.

A 2014 La Follette School alumnus who worked for Mr. Lang for five years added: “Few things matter more in public service than trust. While trust is ultimately earned as the product and confluence of many things–including personal integrity–I believe kindness and civility also reside near the heart of trust,” the former LFB analyst said. “When I think of the time I spent learning from Bob Lang, I am reminded of how he earned the trust placed in him: through a commitment to facts and analysis, but also through an innate kindness and decency.”