UNI Center for Violence Prevention to be renamed in recognition of Northeast Iowa couple’s gift

In conjunction with its 10-year anniversary, the University of Northern Iowa Center for Violence Prevention will be renamed the Patricia A. Tomson Center for Violence Prevention in honor of her decades of work on behalf of survivors of abuse. 

Patricia and her husband O. Jay Tomson together have announced a $2 million gift to the center in support of its mission to build the capacity of Iowa’s schools, victim service agencies, law enforcement and other institutions to systematically implement best practices in bystander-based prevention education. The endowed gift will provide operational support as well as sustained funding for the Tomson Scholars program, which since 2016 has funded student internships with violence prevention organizations and agencies providing direct services to survivors of abuse.

A formal rededication ceremony will take place at 10:30 a.m. Friday, Sept. 17 in the Georgian Lounge located in the Commons building on the UNI campus. The public is invited.

“We want this gift to build and sustain the center’s important work into the future,” said Patricia. “We’ve been really impressed with the students’ dedication and work ethic, and we wanted to continue to provide meaningful experiences for them through the Tomson Scholars program.”

“This is an apparent societal need, and it is timely” O. Jay added, noting that the issue of violence prevention cuts across political lines. “We hope others will step up to support the center.”

“We are overwhelmed with gratitude to the Tomsons for their generosity,” said Alan Heisterkamp, director for the Center for Violence Prevention. “The legacy they’ve provided will build our capacity to educate and serve constituents for the next decade and beyond, helping to make Iowa’s schools and communities safer and more supportive for the next generation of young people.”

The UNI Center for Violence Prevention was established in 2011, and over the last decade has shaped the landscape of violence prevention at the state and national level by educating and empowering young people to prevent bullying, gender-based violence and other harmful behaviors.

The Tomsons have received numerous awards for their philanthropy over the years, including for their support of several higher education institutions such as their alma mater: St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. Patricia Tomson received her master’s degree in counseling from UNI in 1986, leading to a career as a family therapist and later as executive director for the First Citizens Bank Charitable Foundation, where O. Jay served as chairman of the board.  

The Tomson’s gift was made through the UNI Foundation. For more information about the Center for Violence Prevention, visit cvp.uni.edu.