Dedicated Falcons

BGSU honors alumni Robert and Ellen Thompson with Lifetime Achievement Award

Bowling Green State University proudly honored Robert ’55, '06 (Hon.) and Ellen ’54, ’06 (Hon.) Thompson with the Lifetime Achievement Award on Sept. 30 for their commitment to their alma mater and to the future of BGSU.

Their story began a generation ago. Ellen Bowen earned her degree in education from BGSU in 1954. She was active on campus as a member of Gamma Phi Beta, the Swan Club and the Key yearbook staff. Bob Thompson finished his degree in education the following year. While on campus he was a member of Sigma Nu and the Arnold Air Society and was involved with football. They met at a fraternity-sorority mixer. They married and worked as teachers. Bob was a pilot with the U.S. Air Force. They started a family and a paving business. That business prospered and, in 1999, they sold the business. Their employees benefited and the Thompsons were lauded for the strong business ethic and their commitment to those who had worked with them. Bob was a leader in the paving industry and received national honors for his work.  

Their first gift to Bowling Green State University was for scholarships because they were interested in helping students. Then, in December of 2000, Bob and Ellen presented a gift to the University to be used for the construction of a new student union. It was the largest gift in the University’s history. The building was named in their honor.  

Today, the Bowen-Thompson Student Union continues to serve as the hub for all of the exciting student activity at BGSU. Focused on student interaction and student success, the building is central to the unique student experience at BGSU.  

“The Bowen-Thompson Student Union is the heart of campus,” Undergraduate Student Government President Amanda Dortch said.  

The Thompsons served as honorary co-chairs of Bowling Green State University’s first capital campaign. The “Building Dreams Centennial” campaign raised more than $146 million for scholarships, professorships and facilities, making their leadership and dedication paramount to BGSU's success. The University presented both with honorary degrees as a symbol of great appreciation for their commitment to serving students.

Their affinity for helping students succeed is evident by their commitment to Bowling Green State University. They established the Thompson Scholarships in the Sidney A. Ribeau President’s Leadership Academy. The Thompson Scholars are students from the Detroit area who show academic promise. Today, more than 170 students have benefited from this program. The scholars truly appreciate the opportunity provided to them. In addition to their studies, each student must work and perform community service. The Thompsons know that building a strong work ethic and setting goals will help each student be successful.  

“Being a Thompson Scholar has opened my eyes to the world and I cannot express how thankful I am. I realize all that is given to me every day, and whenever I can I give back by volunteering my time to other people,” said Kaela Murray, a Thompson Scholar.

Ellen meets with the students on a regular basis and each is required to update her on his or her educational progress. The letters share personal triumphs and professional accomplishments. Each letter expresses gratitude and hope.

“If I could scream ‘thank you!’ from the top of the world, I would! You have changed my life and I thank you so much for all the assistance, love and compassion you share with me and all of the Thompson Scholars,” said Kyle Smith, Thompson Scholar Black Student Union Vice President.

“The Thompsons take a personal interest in all of the PLA Thompson Scholars,” said Jacob Clemens, assistant dean of students and PLA director. “Their support extends far beyond the comprehensive scholarship to providing mentoring, care and compassion to help each of the scholars succeed. Their holistic vision of scholarship assistance has allowed students to succeed and graduate at unparalleled levels.”

In 2014, Bob and Ellen created yet another scholarship fund at Bowling Green State University. Designed to help those students from working class families, the scholarships provide assistance to those who would not be able to attend college without assistance. As with the scholarships in the President’s Leadership Academy, each recipient must do community service.

“Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to become someone who can make a change in the world, and allowing me to follow my dreams and succeed at a great university,” said Kristy Brooks, a Thompson Working Families Scholarship recipient.

“Business leaders. Community supporters. Education enthusiasts. Falcon Flames. I am thankful to Bob and Ellen Thompson for their continued commitment to the University and for their support of students,” President Mary Ellen Mazey said. “They are truly worthy of the University’s Lifetime Achievement Award as they have touched so many lives with their selfless and generous acts.”