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Marquette University Alumni Association

College of Health Sciences Award Recipients

Professional Achievement Award

Dr. LaDora Vaughan ThompsonDR. LaDORA VAUGHAN THOMPSON, PT '84, GRAD '91

On a cellular level, what causes aging muscles to get weak? LaDora’s research program was one of the first in the world to characterize those cellular changes, and she continues to work to improve the health and mobility of older adults through her research and leadership in the field.

LaDora is a professor in and director of the Program in Physical Therapy at the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities, where she has taught for 20 years and helped launch the state’s first doctoral PT program. She is also immediate past president of the American Aging Association and is active with the Gerontological Society of America and National Institute of Aging.

“Intellectually, my research program has grown and the scientific friends I connect with at scientific meetings across the world encourage me to stay the path and solve the reasons for muscle weakness with aging, bed rest and disease,” she says.

She’s also passionate about teaching and relishes the opportunity to mentor her PT students and the research trainees in her lab.

“The world of academics is perfect for me,” she says. “The activities are always new and challenging. The day is filled with many smiles and laughter and discussions. There is enjoyment from the daily interactions with students, faculty, administrators, staff and more working together. And there is time to think, contemplate, read and problem-solve.”

Hometown: Columbus, Wis.
Favorite poem: Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken.
Dream dinner guests: “My mother and father and siblings.”
Marquette faculty who had an impact: “In my physical therapy education: Luther Kloth. In my Ph.D. training: Robert Fitts.”
Favorite Marquette memories: “As a physical therapy student, I spent many hours on the third floor of the Walter Schroeder Hall. As a Ph.D. student, we would have picnics outside the biology building every Friday with the other lab members.”
Career she aspired to grade school: “Coming from a rural environment, graduating in the mid-’70s, my family valued education. Hence, obtaining an advanced degree was the goal.”
Most influential person: “My mother — always encouraging, positive — pursue your passions! The world has much to offer. See it, feel it, learn about it, engage with it!”