Article & Photo excerpted from Philanthropy World Magazine:
Artist and humanitarian Mary Ann Thompson-Frenk strives to form alliances to bring the world closer together philosophically and environmentally by celebrating diversity and promoting collaboration.
Inspired by the philanthropy and activism of her family and father, the late John Philp Thompson, Sr., the longtime CEO of 7-11 Corporation, Mary Ann's humanitarian focus is an extension of their community involvement and stand against prejudice. By the age of 27 her grandfather, Joe C. Thompson, had served on three City Councils, (Dallas, Highland Park and Oak Cliff).
At a time of civil injustice, he helped lead the charge to integrate The State Fair of Texas. "My father followed suit in the '90's as Head of The State Fair when in spite of threats, he refused to ban the Gay Pride Parade because he saw it as a similar discrimination," Mary Ann says. "He later marched in the parade to demonstrate his stand against prejudice."
"My father told me that this world owes us nothing, yet we owe it to the world to make it a better place." says Mary Ann. "Because of my hearing loss, seizures, migraines, chronic asthma, and ethnicity, it might have been easy to grow up feeling sorry for myself, but he taught me to see my challenges as opporunities for strength and wisdom".
"When I was thirteen years old, I experienced a prophetic dream in which I was creating places throughout the world where people from different cultures met to exchange their unique knowledge of the arts, sciences, and spiritual practices. When I asked my father if such as thing were possible, he said,"I've made my fotune building stores around the world that helped fill my family's pocket. Now don't you think you can build something around the world that helps fill people's needs?" During a visit to the ancient Mesoamerican pyramids of Xochicalco, I learned that the leaders from many onetime warring tribes built a city together to share their culture and spirituality and to advance science. I was sure then that it could be done again."
...At age 25, Mary Ann joined Sanctuary For Life as its first Vice-President. Soon afterwards, Mary Ann founded the Memnosyne Speaker Series through the organization. "Named after the Greek Goddess of knowledge and memory, and the mother of the nine muses, Memnosyne was created for people to exchange spiritual, philosophical, scientific, and cultural knowledge leading to the recognition of the humanity everyone shares," Mary Ann explains,
"While the focus on globalization is how it will affect the world economy, few are discussing how else it will affect humanity. We can choose to let it evolve randomly, or we can choose to collaborate and become conscious cultural creators of humanity's future,"
The first event, held this past summer (2005) at the Dallas Arboretum, brought together over 40 spiritual leaders from western, eastern, indigenous, and new age traditions. They discussed the spiritual and physical human experience, the commonality of beliefs, the environment, and how mankind can establish harmonious goals to progress in unity while respecting valuable differences.
The event led for Memnosyne to take flight as its own foundation and enfold the entire scope of Mary Ann's original vision. "If we are to discover how we can benefit from living together in a compassionate world, we need to build bridges between experts of different fields as much as between cultures or religions," she says. "The Speaker Series is just the beginning of The Memnosyne vision, where campuses located worldwide will be dedicated to building those bridges."Although Memnosyne is the most important cause for Mary Ann, she is also a professional artist, having recently recieved ARTV's "Muse" Award for Sculptor of The Year. (ARTV is the first nationally is the first nationally televised red carpet awards and will be televised this year - 2006) And her company, Thompson Fine Arts, Inc. was nominated for The North Texas Businesses Committee For The Arts's prestigious Obelisk Award for donating gallery space to the Visual Arts Coalition of Dallas, which represents over 7,500 visual artists, and where she serves as Chair of The Advisory Board. Mary Ann has served on 14 different nonprofit boards, (both in the USA and international), and with her husband, Joshua Raymond Frenk, has sponsored many programs promoting human rights, the arts, and a clean environment.
(Her multi-talented "team" in these endeavors consists of her husband, film director, Joshua R. Frenk, her asistant, event planner and designer, Alan Keith, and Memnosyne Executive Director, Coke Buchanan and his asistant, Anthony Chisom, as well as many more incredible volunteers.) They have collaborated with cultures around the world and will travel to Rwanda and Tanzania this spring (May 2006) with Heiffer International, whose mission is caring for the earth and ending world hunger and poverty.
"Dad (John Philp Thompson, Sr.) was always turning negatives into positives, so as a tribute to his life and his battle with brain cancer, my husband and I launched The John Philp Thompson Foundation to support research for non-chemotherapy/non-radiation healing and cures for glioblastoma. Our first donation went to Duke University's Brain Tumor Center's Immunothearapy Program. It was an incredible feeling to help. Somewhere, dad was smiling!"
Mary Ann continues, "Ricardo Cervantes, a Toltec Shaman at Teotihuacan and influential teacher in my life, told me to be a seed planter for others to benefit from, leaving it up to them to decide if they want to make those seeds grow. My life's purpose is giving others that chance."