Two recent graduates credit Thompsons for providing them access to college

three people standing
Tamara Bailey stands with Ellen and Bob Thompson at a previous celebration for Thompson Scholars. Bailey will work at a Marriott property in Nebraska in the fall.
Image Credit: courtesy photo
woman standing
Amanda Dotson received a scholarship from the Thompsons. She is now in Texas, beginning a master's degree program at Texas State University.
Image Credit: courtesy photo
large group of people
Bob and Ellen Thompson, President Philomena V. Mantella and students are pictured at a 2019 celebration of Thompson Scholars.
Image Credit: Valerie Wojciechowski

The coronavirus pandemic and economic crisis are not stopping two recent Grand Valley graduates from starting their careers. Both women credit a generous Detroit couple for helping them get to college in the first place.

Tamara Bailey and Amanda Dotson were recipients of the University Prep Academy Scholarship, a fund established by Bob and Ellen Thompson that provides renewable college scholarships to graduates of the Detroit charter school. Those scholarships and hard work led Bailey and Dotson to careers in other states.

After 40 years in business, the Thompsons sold their asphalt company, Thompson-McCully, in 1999. The couple then formed the Thompson Foundation and cited its key mission as creating educational opportunities for urban youth and families with low incomes.

Without that financial support, Dotson said she would not have been able to go to college. "I have talked with Mr. and Mrs. Thompson several times about their business. I was glad to have that opportunity to let them know how much they impacted students in the Detroit area and at Grand Valley," she said.

Dotson left Michigan in early May for Texas to begin a master's degree program at Texas State University and work for its Student Involvement Office as a graduate assistant.

The Thompsons established the University Prep scholarship at Grand Valley in 2008. The couple, through the Thompson Foundation, now funds four scholarships at Grand Valley, including the university's largest program, the Thompson Working Families Scholarship (TWFS).

TWFS was established at Grand Valley in 2011, first offering 15 students annual scholarships of $3,000, and increasing to 30 students per year in 2015. In 2017, the Thompsons greatly extended the reach of their generosity by offering 125 students annual awards of $5,000 each. The stipulations of the program include a matching award from Grand Valley, thus greatly reducing a student’s debt load.

Bailey, who earned a bachelor's degree in hospitality and tourism management, was hired by Marriott International for its leadership development program, Voyage. In September, Bailey will move to Omaha, Nebraska, to work at a Marriott property as a food and beverage manager.

The Voyage program is specific to graduates of hospitality programs and offers full benefits, relocation assistance, leadership training, tuition reimbursement, networking and other resources.

For more information, visit gvsu.edu/thompsonscholars.