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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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Patsy J. Mellott

BS College of Health and Human Sciences, 1969
Fishers, IN

Patsy earned a bachelor’s degree in food and nutrition in business from Purdue in 1969, in addition to an MBA in food marketing from Michigan State University in 1970. She retired from Kraft Foods in 2006 after 36 years in corporate food marketing and marketing communications management.

A community volunteer, Patsy serves on the Women’s Fund of Central Indiana Advisory Board and the Purdue College of Health and Human Sciences Dean’s Leadership Council, in addition to the President’s Council Advisory Board. She is a former member of the Health and Human Sciences Alumni Board. Patsy held several offices from 2006 through 2013, including president and treasurer. She serves her community’s Discover Indianapolis Club in Fishers, holding several leadership roles for over 10 years.

Patsy has received several honors, including the Purdue University Nutrition Science Department Hall of Fame recipient in 2009 and the Purdue University College of Health and Human Sciences Distinguished Alumni Award in 2016. She also received the college’s Gold and Black Award in 2016, an honor reserved for donors who have moved the college forward by committing exceptional financial resources.

In addition to endowing two scholarships, the Patsy J. Mellott Scholarship and Patsy J. Mellott HHS Scholarship, she established the Patsy J. Mellott Teaching Innovation Award in the College of Health and Human Sciences in 2013. In 2015, she endowed the Patsy J. Mellott Women’s Tennis Coach Performance Award. She is a lead donor in the Christine M. Ladisch Faculty Leadership Award and the Purdue Women’s Network Virginia C. Meredith Scholarship for the College of Health and Human Sciences.