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Thompsons to Receive Honorary Doctorate at Ferris Commencement May 5

Ferris State UniversityGraduates of Ferris State University’s College of Education and Human Services will share the commencement stage Saturday morning, May 5 with a Detroit-area couple who have shown great devotion to helping disadvantaged students achieve the dream of higher education.

Robert M. “Bob” and Ellen A. Thompson, of Plymouth, will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters as part of the 9 a.m. ceremony. Robert Thompson built Thompson-McCully into the largest asphalt paving company in Michigan, with a variety of industry awards received along with his service in respected leadership roles during his 40-year career. Ellen’s experience as an inner-city elementary school teacher helped to shape the goals and mission of the Thompson Educational Foundation, which includes the support of nine nonprofit charter schools in southeast Michigan and the establishment of the Thompson Working Families Scholarship Program. At Ferris, this will provide up to $20,000 in financial assistance to nearly 150 promising students with the goal of helping them obtain their degree with reduced personal and family debt.

"I see how long and hard some people work, and the dreams they have for their children," Ellen said. “Bob and I know the investments we're making in these young people will pay hefty dividends in the future, not only in their lives, but in their communities."

Robert indicated that their efforts through the foundation are simply the reciprocation of kindnesses they had received.

“We all have someone special in our lives who motivates and encourages us,” Thompson said.  “Both Ellen and I each had a special person who helped get us to the point of college graduation.”

Also receiving honorary doctorates in Ferris’ Spring 2018 commencement ceremonies will be Ferris alumna Teresa McKay, of the Department of Defense Finance and Accounting Service, and Alex Gorsky, chief executive officer and chairman of the board of Johnson & Johnson.

Approximately 1,900 Ferris students will participate in the Spring 2018 commencement ceremonies on Friday, May 4 and Saturday, May 5 in Big Rapids.

The university’s ticketed commencement ceremonies will be held in the Jim Wink Arena in the Ewigleben Sports Complex. Those guests without tickets will be able to watch the ceremony via a live stream on the university’s commencement website.

PHOTO CAPTION: Robert M. and Ellen A. Thompson, of Plymouth, Mich., will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Ferris State University on Saturday, May 5. The Thompsons will participate in the commencement ceremony for Ferris’ College of Education and Human Services.