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Rediscovering the Thompson Trophy

Many of our Milwaukee University School alumni are likely familiar with the Thompson Trophy, a coveted award established in 1938 by Frank Spigener, then-director of MUS. Inscribed on the trophy are six lines: “Not what you get, but what you give/Not what you say, but how you live/Give the world the love it needs/Living a life of noble deeds/Strong for the right – the good – the true/These are the things worthwhile to you.”

The Thompson Memorial Trophy.

The Thompson Memorial Trophy

When MUS merged with Milwaukee Country Day School and Milwaukee Downer Seminary in 1964, the award was no longer bestowed and, after campus relocations, the trophy went missing. (Thankfully, the school was gifted a replacement by Mary Dengel and Wendy (Shea) Randall MDS’50, whose late husbands were both award recipients.) After years of searching, the trophy was closer than we thought—sitting in an Upper School art classroom, used as a subject in countless still-lifes.

Thanks to a generous alumnus, the spirit of the trophy lives on. In 2016, Robert Burch MUS’52 established the Frank S. Spigener Service and Leadership Award. It is given annually to a senior who demonstrates the spirit of caring, humanitarianism, and volunteerism exemplified by Spigener. “I thought it was important that the award, and those words, be brought back,” he said.

  • Alumni