Meet Robert Thompson

Nov 1, 2022

Until Feb. 1, 2023, we were Group Health Foundation. This post was written under our former identity. To learn more about our new name, read our announcement HERE.

Robert and their husband, Ryan, pose with Santa hats in the snow next to their dogs, River and Ripley.

Ever since they were young, Robert Thompson was always examining the world and the people around her. Coming from a close-knit community in Reardan, he recognized early on how society’s categorization of people could expose invisible power structures set in place.

“I’m aware that every word I choose is going to color your perspective of me,” Robert shares, quoting a talk from their 2019 TedX Spokane talk on drag and the construction of identity. “It’s going to change the size and the shape of the box I fit into.”

This lifelong curiosity about identity, systems, and power has pulled Robert in many directions throughout her life. They pursued interests in education, music, and studying the Spanish language before ultimately pursuing a degree in political science and criminal justice.

Robert’s pivot into criminal justice studies was precipitated by their own experiences with law enforcement at a younger age. “I think it even opened my eyes and made a lot of connections to a lot of these very large and invisible things that I hadn’t fully understood yet,” she says. “And about the ways we categorize people, the people who get arrested, the people who don’t, the people who have power, and the people who don’t.”

After graduating from Arizona State University, Robert began working for the Spokane Development Services Center. In this role, Robert partnered with city planning, permitting, and code enforcement to support current and ongoing residential and commercial projects, as well as working with unhoused people and those living in substandard conditions.

“It was a really, really great experience,” they say. “It was very interesting to see what code enforcement and what development services were doing together when it came to people who are living in unlivable situations, when it came to trying to let people understand what their rights were, and really collaborate with and try to help people.”

Joining Group Health Foundation as an administrative associate, Robert is most excited about witnessing the growth of the foundation as well as their own growth. In this role, they will work closely with Vice President of Programs Steven Cole-Schwartz to manage correspondence, schedule and plan meetings, offer writing support, and help create a strong team culture. They will lead special projects that support the programs team in building community and relationships with grantee organizations and philanthropic partners.

Robert is helping to build something outside of work as well. He currently lives in West Spokane with his partner of 10 years and their two dogs and is active in his community. He is an actor/singer/creative with local theater groups such as Lake City Playhouse and Stage Left Theater and hosts a queer kickball league during the summer. Helping to build up these spaces in a place that historically lacks queer community spaces is something that brings Robert a lot of joy.

“I think that there’s still some missing common community spaces that aren’t necessarily centered around activism or politics,” reflects Robert, who adds these spaces are just as important: “they are just a place where people can come, and they can let their masks down.”

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