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Food for the Ancestors

Vimeo & ZOOM Presentation

Sunday, November 1, 2020

2:00 p.m.

Register Here

Members $7

Non-members $10

Food for the Ancestors Sept 29.jpg

Professor Jan Thompson is the first female permanent Director in the history of the School Of Journalism at Southern Illinois University.

She is a 3-time (writing, editing and music composition) Emmy award winning filmmaker/composer with an additional fourteen Emmy nominations. Other professional awards include the Gold Medal in the New York International Radio Festival in History, Two Hugos, The Chris and the Herman Kogan Media Award for journalism in Chicago. Additionally, Professor Thompson was recognized as a PBS Independent Producer Spotlight.

Professor Thompson’s largest body of work is about the American prisoner-of-war experience under Imperial Japan during World War II. This includes a trilogy of three documentaries, radio series, websites, articles and a book.


The most recent documentary Survival Through Art was completed in 2018 and narrated by Alec Baldwin. The documentary The Tragedy of Bataan was broadcast nationally on PBS/NPR stations. This half hour documentary and five part radio series was also narrated by Alec Baldwin. Never The Same was narrated by Loretta Swit with additional voice work by Ed Asner, Alec Baldwin, Jamie Farr, Mike Farrell, Robert Forester, Robert Loggia, don Murray, Christopher Murray, John O’Hurley, Kathleen Turner, Robert Wagner and Sam Waterston.

Professor Thompson’s other professional work includes, Hidden Journeys, a prime time series for PBS that covered food and culture in India, China, Mexico, South Korea and Turkey. Food For The Ancestors has been considered the definitive piece on the Mexican holiday Days of the Dead. In addition, PBS extended the original contract for the series to twenty years. 

Professor Thompson’s also produced two documentaries with Maestro Daniel Barenboim/Chicago Symphony. 

Before moving into documentary filmmaking Professor Thompson was a producer and director for live sports. She was the studio director for the Chicago Bulls, White Sox and Black Hawks. In addition, she directed the live pre and post game shows. She directed the first live call in sports series in Chicago called On The Bench.  And produced public service announcements for the Michael Jordan Foundation.

Professor Thompson is the President of a non-profit: The American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society. This non-profit’s supports and represents former POWs of Imperial Japan. For nearly ten years she has worked with the United States State Department and the Government of Japan in a reconciliation program. As part of the US Japan Alliance, this program sends former POWs to Japan for reconciliation.  As a result of her work in reconciliation, she has been recognized in the Congressional Record by the United States Senate and the House. 

In 2016, Professor Thompson was invited by the Obama White House and the Japanese Government to witness the historic visit by the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Pearl Harbor. President Barack Obama and the Prime Minister’s speeches both concentrated on the theme of reconciliation. 

Professor Thompson has been teaching at SIU since 2000 and is tenured in the Radio, Television and Digital Media Department. 

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