Sharlene Thompson works to preserve La Jolla’s architectural gems


Sharlene Thompson is executive director of La Jolla Woman’s Club. The club has 175 members who participate in a variety of programs and activities. Since joining the club in April, 2011, Thompson has focused on earning the funds required to cover the building’s annual operating expenses by renting the clubhouse and gardens for events such as weddings, fundraisers, annual meetings, lectures and celebrations of life.

She has also been assisting the board of directors in developing a long-term strategic plan to address the aging historic landmark’s infrastructure needs.

A seasoned event professional, Thompson has extensive hospitality, retail and non-profit management experience working in museums, luxury hotels and universities in San Francisco, Seattle and San Diego. An active participant in the annual Open Doors La Jolla: A Tour of the Cultural Zone event, Thompson also volunteers on advisory committees of the Kyoto Prize Symposium Organization and the Chinese Historical Society and Museum.

What brought you to La Jolla?

Following the death of my father, my mother, Edna, and I moved to San Diego from Bellevue, Washington to be closer to family (my sister, Stella, married Dave Bloom who is the son of Marty and Sherry Bloom, and grandson of the late Phyllis Seeber of the Bird Rock neighborhood). I have long enjoyed the unique La Jolla restaurants, shops and cultural activities, and coming to work for La Jolla Woman’s Club in April 2011 has involved me in the strong community of the Village of La Jolla.

What might you add, subtract or improve in the area?

I would like to see an organized community effort to recognize and support, on a long-term basis, the historic institutions that help make La Jolla a special place to live. The economic challenges of recent years have made many of us working in the non-profit world recognize the need to marshal our resources carefully, and to create and fund foundations to insure our historic buildings, and the organizations that meet in them, survive for the next 100 years.

Who or what inspires you?

Miss Ellen Browning Scripps, founder and former president of La Jolla Woman’s Club, was a talented, progressive and articulate woman who was interested in the social issues of the day and in encouraging women to be involved in all aspects of their community. As a philanthropist, she had the vision to create many of the institutions we most value in our community today, both for the institutions themselves, as well as the physical beauty of their architecture.

She commissioned progressive architect Irving Gill to design and build La Jolla Woman’s Club, the Recreation Center, three of the buildings at The Bishop’s School, and her own home (now the center building of the Museum of Contemporary Art). Considered a pioneer of the modern movement in architecture, Gill is now lauded as one of the five most important California architects and the buildings are now recognized as his masterpieces.

As these buildings approach their 100th anniversary and as their fame in architectural circles grows, I have come to realize the importance of protecting these properties for the next 100 years for members, residents and visitors to enjoy the historic treasures created by the philanthropist and architect working together.

If you hosted a dinner party for eight, whom (living or deceased) would you invite?

My guest list would feature Ellen Browning Scripps, Dr. Mary Ritter, Florence Riford, Irving Gill, Kate Sessions, Joan and Irwin Jacobs and Walter Munk.

What are you reading and watching?

I am currently reading several books on the flowering trees and bushes in Kyoto and studying a book on rose varieties and their care. My favorite movies include “Charade,” “Chan is Missing,” “Julie & Julia,” “Rear Window” and “The Last Emperor.”

What is it that you most dislike?

Unethical behavior.

What is your most-prized possession?


y collection of historic Chinese robes.

What do you do for fun?

I like to garden, read, cook and travel — and to support other philanthropic organizations as a volunteer.

What is your motto or philosophy of life?

Practice kindness and civility, maintain a positive outlook, and cherish every day.

What would be your dream vacation?

My dream vacation would be a grand tour of Asia to include Tokyo, Kyoto, Taipei, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Xian, Singapore, Bangkok and Seoul.