A male student stands at a podium.
Jayden Donald '24 speaks at Convocation ahead of the 2023-24 academic year. (BGSU photo/Craig Bell)

BGSU Homecoming king adds to legacy of service as a Thompson Scholar

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The historic expansion of the Thompson Working Families Scholarship Program means more opportunities for students like Jayden Donald ’24 to continue to impact the public good

As he spoke to a class of new students at Bowling Green State University, Jayden Donald ’24 had a full-circle moment. 

Attending BGSU on a Thompson Working Families Scholarship, Donald spoke at Convocation 2023 to formally welcome the next generation of Falcons, a small gesture of giving back that came to define Donald’s college journey.

One would be hard-pressed to find a more involved student than Donald — who was a Schmidthorst College of Business student ambassador, the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Brother of the Year, a member of the BGSU Men’s Chorus and the BGSU Homecoming King — though Donald’s service as a Thompson Scholar was among the most rewarding parts of his BGSU experience. 

“The Thompson Scholarship program gave me the foundation and platform to give back,” Donald said. “I once benefitted from the service done through programs like this and have always had the desire to do the same for other people.” 

The scholarship program, created in 2014 by Robert Thompson ‘55, ‘06 (Hon.) and Ellen (Bowen) Thompson ‘54, ‘06 (Hon.) to help academically gifted students break through obstacles into higher education, asks recipients to continue the Thompson legacy of service. 

Thompson Scholars must complete 20 hours of service each academic year, but many choose to do significantly more, as students in the program have logged more than 89,000 hours of service since the inception of the program. 

Mary Kay Inkrott Hiser ’05, ’06, the director of the Thompson Scholars program and Donald’s scholarship advisor, said the service aspect is at the heart of the scholarship.

“Mr. and Mrs. Thompson at their core are servant leaders. They desire to give back and make a difference,” Hiser said. “One important aspect with this scholarship program is that our Thompson Scholars are giving back and contributing to the public good. 

“We encourage scholars to carry on the Thompsons’ legacy and reach their hand back to help bring someone else forward in life, as the Thompsons have done for them through the Thompson Working Families Scholarship.”

Serving others

For Donald, a native of Lima, Ohio, who earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a specialization in finance, the allure of being a Thompson Scholar was that it allowed students to complete service on their own terms. 

Students are free to give back to causes and communities that are important to them — providing a platform for students to create a meaningful difference.

“The program promoted academic excellence and service, and it empowered students to give to communities of their choice,” Donald said. “There was no better opportunity than to serve disadvantaged communities like those that made me.

“Being a Thompson Scholar helped me understand the significance of giving back. I've been given so much by this program and even better than that, I have been able, through service, to give back to others.”

Hiser said she remembers meeting Donald for the first time in 2020 and thinking, “He’s going to move mountains.” 

Even though his first year on campus came during the coronavirus pandemic, Hiser said Donald still found ways to step into various leadership roles while maintaining academic excellence and a commitment to serving others.

“I think my proudest moment as his scholarship advisor was hearing him speak at Convocation in August 2023, welcoming the new students to BGSU,” Hiser said. “Jayden has faced roadblocks during his time at BGSU, but he persevered. He worked hard and never gave up and has put himself in a really great position for a successful career post-BGSU. He’s going to continue to move mountains as a BGSU and Thompson graduate.”

Historic scholarship expansion

The recent historic announcement that the BGSU and the Thompson Foundation have increased their partnership to include nearly $250 million for student scholarships means more students like Donald from working families will be able to overcome financial barriers to higher education.

When combined with their past scholarship support, the Thompsons have shared their intent to increase their contribution to scholarships at BGSU to total $121 million, with the possibility of an additional $30 million to extend the program past 2035. If realized, the Thompsons will have contributed $150 million to student scholarships at BGSU.

From the program’s inception to expected completion in 2035, it will be responsible for creating nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in scholarships, when combined with the University's dollar-for-dollar match. More than 6,200 BGSU students are expected to receive Thompson scholarship support, from the program’s inception through 2035.

This contribution will be the largest in the University’s history, the largest single gift designated to student scholarships in the state of Ohio’s history and one of the largest non-endowed scholarship programs of its kind in the nation.

With an innovative public-private philanthropic partnership approach, the program ensures all parties are invested in student success. The University is committed to match the required Thompson scholarship funding, dollar for dollar, through University dollars and donor support for each student and ensure that students graduate in four years or less.

Career plans

After graduation, Donald accepted a position with Amazon as a financial analyst for a two-year rotational program that will begin his career in Detroit. 

As he embarks on a career after BGSU, Donald said he remains thankful for the community of like-minded Thompson Scholars with whom he developed a bond.

“I have a very supportive network — really, a family — of Thompson Scholars,” Donald said. “The program creates a sense of community that I know will last beyond college.”

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Media Contact | Michael Bratton | mbratto@bgsu.edu | 419-372-6349

Updated: 05/15/2024 11:08AM