Past Features

May 19, 2008 (Vol. 7, No. 9)

Professor Invited to First-of-its-Kind 'Descendants of Famous Russians' Conference in Moscow

Patricia Thompson
Professor Patricia Thompson
Lehman Professor Patricia Thompson, the daughter of famed Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, is one of seven Americans invited to a "Descendants of Famous Russians"conference, sponsored by the Russian State Department, that will take place in Moscow July 6-9. She joins a distinguished group that will include Igor Sikorsky, the son of the renowned helicopter engineer.

All 40 invitees, coming from the U.S. and other nations, represent families originally of Russian birth who have made significant contributions to the arts, science and other fields. The conference is the first of its kind to be sponsored by the Russian government.

Professor Thompson's family history rivals the great stories told in Russian literature. Mayakovsky was called the poet of the Russian Revolution, the same revolution that forced her mother's wealthy family to flee for the United States. He met Professor Thompson's mother, Elly Jones, in 1925 at a book party given in his honor during a trip to New York. Five years later, he died in Russia under mysterious circumstances, leading Professor Thompson to obey her mother's wishes and remain silent about her lineage. In the late 1980s, following the death of her mother and adoptive father, she broke that silence. By then, she was well-established in scholarly and publishing circles.

Professor Thompson followed her mother's advice to "stand outside your father's long shadow and make your own way in the world." She joined the Lehman College faculty while earning her doctorate at Teachers College, Columbia University. In her 40-year career, she has published several books and numerous articles, focusing on the areas of education and women's studies and exploring her original theory of Hestian feminism. This conceptual framework reinterprets the influence of the homeā€”as symbolized by Hestia, the Greek protector of domestic life, who contrasts domestic life with civic life.