Will Thompkins is the recipient of the Dignity and Respect Champion award, a monthly honor recognizing people who are engaged in their communities, live by the principles of dignity and respect, and promote an environment of inclusion.


Thompkins, director of community and outreach at The Pittsburgh Project, a nonprofit community development organization with a 25-year track record of developing leaders and serving the city’s most vulnerable residents, was nominated by Saleem Ghubril, executive director of the Pittsburgh Promise, a scholarship program for students in Pittsburgh Public Schools.

“Will models servant-leadership in everything he does, but never with the aim of drawing attention to himself. He makes whomever is in his company feel deeply valued and highly regarded. He is a bridge-builder between those typically alienated whether because of race, ethnicity, gender, economics, age, or politics. This is Will’s first nature,” Ghubril said.

Thompkins was one of four finalists for the February honor and is the first member of the community to be acknowledged for his dedication to inclusion.

“I am honored,” Thompkins said upon learning of the recognition. “I don’t seek any accolades—I just try to help the community. There are so many people who could be chosen and I am happy about the work I have been able to do in the last several years for the city of Pittsburgh. I am humbled as well.”

Thompkins lives his life in a way that directly represents the Dignity and Respect Campaign’s mission—to achieve cultural and behavioral change in lives, organizations and communities by ensuring that inclusion is at the core of what people do each day.

He has served as the executive assistant at the Allegheny County Office of the Chief Executive, administrative specialist at the Allegheny County Area Agency on Aging, president and CEO of the Urban League of Nebraska, Inc., vice president for programs and services at the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh and executive director of Urban Youth Action, Inc.

His community service also includes work on the following boards—KidsVoice, Pittsburgh Branch NAACP, Children 2 Champions, Northside Old Timers, Pittsburgh United, and The 100 Black Men of Western Pennsylvania. He is very caring, actively involved in community work, and occasionally runs and shoots pool.

Thompkins said a strong faith foundation and a desire to make his family proud are what it takes for him to live a life filled with dignity and respect, but it all began with his parents. “Anything I did in my life, I never wanted to do any dishonor to them. Wherever I lived and traveled – in college and the military – I tried to carry myself in a way that my parents would be very proud of me.” Today, his two sons serve as a daily inspiration. “I want to live in a way that they would want to emulate,” Thompkins said.

Thompkins was born and raised in Pittsburgh on the North Side.  He has been married to Susan R. Thompkins, R.N. for more than 34 years.  Their two sons are Anton and Kesete.

The Dignity and Respect Campaign is an awareness campaign designed to bring together individuals, city leaders, community groups, school systems, and companies under the common belief that everyone deserves dignity and respect.

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