Colonial Love: Robert and Vivian

Robert and Vivian Tompson

In the fall of 1954, Robert Tompson, SMHS MD ’58, was a first-year GW med student with a bit of a problem.

“I was terribly distracted” he says, “by the presence of a pretty young girl in my classes.”

That young girl was Vivian Andrews, a D.C. native who had made her way to GW following in the footsteps of her father, Don D. Andrews, SEAS BS ’30, LAW JD ’34.

It didn’t take long for Robert and Vivian to realize the feeling was mutual; they were soon engaged, and wed in June 1955, after the school year ended.

Three years later, Robert graduated and Vivian had moved on to pursue a career with the U.S. Patent Office. After staying in Washington for a year of internship at GW Hospital, and two years of residency at University Hospital in Columbia, Missouri, Robert joined the U.S. Air Force, and the couple relocated to Oklahoma.

The Tompsons found themselves back in the D.C. area after just a couple of years, with a new assignment from the Air Force. During this time, Robert finished his medical residency with GW, working first at GW Hospital, then at a facility in Northern Virginia, and Washington Hospital Center. After completing residency, the Air Force brought Robert and Vivian to California, where they lived for three years.

Robert and Vivian TompsonAs their number of cross-country assignments grew, so did the Tompsons’s family; over the years, they welcomed four children. Their firstborn arrived – where else? – at GW Hospital. The rest of the brood were born “coast to coast,” as Robert puts it – the second in Missouri, the third in Maryland, and the fourth in California.

During a business trip to San Francisco in 1968, Robert ran into a surgeon from his hometown of Moberly, Missouri, who was looking for a successor to overtake his practice. The Tompsons couldn’t refuse the offer and soon found themselves settling in Moberly.

While they built a life miles and miles from Foggy Bottom, GW stayed in the Tompson family. Second eldest son, Richard Tompson, SMHS MD ‘89, is also a Colonial; he is now an anesthesiologist practicing in Missouri.

Looking back on their shared time Washington, many things still stand out to the Tompsons. Robert recalls watching movies in the basement of the White House, thanks to a connection through a friend’s mother. Both Robert and Vivian have fond memories of the Follies, a longstanding annual performance of skits, songs, and dances by GW med students. Most of all, Robert remembers how studying at GW changed his perspective.

“When I went to school, there were 98 [students] in my class. I found out later that there had been more than 1200 applicants for those spots. When I got to GW, the whole world was different – the people I was there with were just so smart. GW truly is one special place.”

This summer, the Tompsons will celebrate their 63rd wedding anniversary. Although the couple says the world has changed dramatically since they first met and began building a life together, Robert can still sum things up succinctly.

“I love her,” he says of Vivian. “Thank you to GW for bringing us together.”

-Melissa Nyman

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