Alumni National Awards

J. William and Mary Diederich College of Communication
Award Recipients

Communicator of the Year Award

Barbara ThompsonBarbara Weeks Thompson, Jour ’74
Waukesha, Wis.

As the founder of The Roberts Group, one of the first marketing firms to focus on serving the health care industry, Barbara has been a trailblazer for female entrepreneurs.

She started The Roberts Group from her basement in 1981, just seven years after receiving her undergraduate degree in journalism. At that time, health care marketing and communication were in their infancy, but Barbara had gained experience working for Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, and wanted to offer effective strategies to hospitals and health care organizations.

During 27 years in business, The Roberts Group received hundreds of industry awards and Barbara became a nationally recognized expert in her field. Until Barbara retired in February 2018 and closed the office, the Waukesha, Wis.-based firm was one of the largest women-owned businesses in the state, according to the Milwaukee Business Journal. Among other accolades, Barbara was featured in Forbes magazine as one of “America’s Women Business Leaders” and received the 2012 Professional Excellence Award from the Wisconsin Healthcare Public Relations and Marketing Society.

“It’s been said that if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life,” Barbara says. “That has been my career.”

In addition to helping clients reach their goals, Barbara says her greatest professional joy has been mentoring young people to achieve success. At The Roberts Group, she provided opportunities for her employees to learn, grow and succeed, and helped them solve business challenges, think through career planning and build self-confidence.

“My greatest successes are the successes of people I have influenced,” she says. “Nothing could make me happier.”

In accordance with the Marquette mission, Barbara has dedicated her time and talent for others. She made The Roberts Group a strong community partner in Waukesha County, providing pro bono services for nonprofit organizations and cause-related events, and she has sat on several professional and nonprofit boards. She also enjoys guest lecturing at universities including Marquette, where she has candidly shared her experiences as an entrepreneur and how her Jesuit education has guided her professional decision-making.

“People say that the Marquette influence becomes clearer the further away you get from graduation,” she says. “That has been true for me.”

Fun Fact: Barbara served as a resident assistant at O’Donnell Hall and remains close with her RA cohort today. “It was the best and most committed team I’ve ever known.”