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Don and Liz Thompson

Major gift lifts minority engineering program

The doors of opportunity—and Purdue—are opening wider for minority students in engineering thanks to a gift from a grateful couple with long ties to the University—and to the cause they are supporting.

Don and Liz Thompson created a $1 million endowment for the College of Engineering, toward scholarships for minority engineering students and, notably, the Minority Engineering Program (MEP).

The Purdue graduates in electrical engineering (Don in 1984 and Liz in 1985) were active in the program as students. In fact, that’s how they met. Their gift helps ensure that the Minority Engineering Program will continue to help students in their pursuit of higher education.

Started in 1974, MEP has been key to the graduation of nearly 3,000 underrepresented minority engineering students at Purdue. Many other colleges across the nation have adopted Purdue’s MEP model.

“Purdue University, and specifically the Minority Engineering Program (MEP), opened doors of opportunity for Liz and me,” Don Thompson said. “Those doors, and God’s grace, ultimately led to successful careers that yielded economic opportunities to enable us to do what we’re doing.”

Today, the Thompsons now lead Cleveland Avenue, a privately held venture capital firm. Don serves as CEO, and Liz is President of their foundation, Cleveland Avenue Foundation for Education (The CAFÉ).

Don, who has served as a Purdue trustee since 2009, said they are hopeful their gift will spark fellow Boilermakers to “pay it forward” to the University that gave them a solid educational foundation for success.

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