About the Thompsons
Robert and Ellen Thompson believe in education’s ability to make a significant difference in someone's life. The couple were college sweethearts and entered the asphalt paving business in 1959 with the $3,500 they had saved from Ellen’s teaching career. They lived solely off her income for a few years while they got their business off the ground. Their hard work flourished into two successful, multimillion-dollar businesses and countless accolades for their achievements. As their success grew, so did their philanthropy— both to their employees and promising students.
After selling their successful asphalt company in 1999, Bob and Ellen Thompson formed the Thompson Foundation and cited its key mission as creating educational opportunities for city youth and families with low incomes. The Thompsons see education as a way to improve lives, and their scholarships are focused on families who believe in hard work— both parents’ on-the-job work and students’ in-classroom work.
The Thompsons developed this scholarship because they understand the grit and determination of working-class families.
Ellen Thompson has said it was the couple's relationship with employees at their asphalt company that spurred them into creating scholarship programs. “I see how long and hard some people work, and the dreams they have for their children,” said Ellen Thompson. “We’ve been fortunate and want to help students realize those dreams.”
The Robert and Ellen Thompson Working Families Scholarship was introduced at SVSU in 2016 and has since helped hundreds of students achieve their academic and career goals.
As for the Thompsons, their only goal is to help students succeed and to perhaps inspire people to give. Robert and Ellen see an opportunity to help students for whom money may be an obstacle to college success. Thompson scholars at SVSU are encouraged to be active in extracurricular activities and Registered Student Organizations (RSOs) and are required to give back through community service. Thompson scholars benefit by building networks and learning skills they can put on their resumes and apply to their daily lives.
And Bob Thompson has a message for students: "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.'"