A Michigan couple, Bob and Ellen Thompson, have given $52 million to the Thompson Working Families Scholarships (TWFS) for four institutions that partner with the Thompson Foundation.

The Thompsons already have contributed $33 million to TWFS and the additional $52 million means more than 5,200 students will receive support.

The money will go to Grand Valley State, Saginaw Valley State and Michigan Technological universities and the Thompsons’ alma mater, Bowling Green State University, in Ohio, according to John Cleary, chief executive of the Thompson Foundation. Each partner university provides matching funds.

It was Ellen’s idea to help what she termed as “working families” when the TFWS programme was established in 2011. When working with university representatives, Ellen recognised a gap in financial support for students.

The students who receive Thompson Working Families scholarships must maintain a specified grade point average and commit to community service hours. Universities agree to provide resources to maintain high cohort graduation rates.

Bob Thompson sent a message for scholarship recipients: “You can do things to help others, one-on-one, and make it happen. You’re almost obligated by me to do that. Do what you can and someday I hope you’ll look back and say, ‘This changed my life.'”

Bob was born in 1932 on a small farm in Jonesville, Michigan. He attended Bowling Green State University on a football scholarship and earned his teaching degree in 1955. Ellen (Bowen) was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and graduated from Bowling Green State University in 1954 with a teaching degree. She taught at elementary schools in both Michigan and Ohio.

The couple’s business success began with $3,500 in savings from Ellen’s teaching position that the couple, along with Thompson’s uncle, Wilford McCully, used to start the Thompson-McCully Co, a contract road paving company, in 1959. The couple established the Thompson Foundation in 1999 and Thompson Schools Foundation in 2002.

Date published: 27 April 2021

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