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Byron G. Thompson, noted alumnus, business leader, family man and friend of the college, passed away at home on August 4. His final visit to the Atchison campus was on June 13 during the Alumni Reunion when he received the 2015 Kansas Monk Award. He had said how impressive the criteria were and how honored he was to have been selected for the award. Established in 1960, the Kansas Monk Award honors alumni who have distinguished themselves in their profession, showed a prominence of service to the civic community, demonstrated outstanding loyalty to the alma mater, and reflected honor on the college through family and social life. It was truly an award for which Byron was amply qualified.
Byron was born nearby in St. Joseph, Mo., in 1932. He attended St. Benedict’s College, now Benedictine College, where he was involved in much of campus life, serving as senior class president, working as editor-in-chief of the College newspaper, The Rambler, and participating in many other clubs and intramural sports. He graduated cum laude in 1955 with a Bachelor’s degree in economics. He served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War and was the crew chief on a B-26. He is the father of 11 children … with collective education provided to them of 59 years beyond high school. He is also the grandfather of 47.
In his Kansas Monk Award acceptance speech, he offered some appropriate and moving words on life.
“This is an academic setting, that’s what this college is all about, and in an academic setting you’re taught to get those As and Bs, no Fs, no Fs. But tonight, I’m going to focus on Fs,” he said. “I’ve had a Full life of Faith, Family, Friends, Fun. And what does education do except teach you ways to have a better Future? …And then it’s about Finish. Finish your life well. That’s the target. That’s what I hope I did. I love you all. Thank you.”
In 1969, Byron was one of the first laymen named to the Board of Directors at St. Benedict’s College and went on to serve on the founding board of Benedictine College. In 1976, Benedictine College bestowed upon him the prestigious Cross of the Order of St. Benedict for his leadership and generosity. At the 1997 Benedictine College Commencement Exercises, at which he was the keynote speaker, Byron was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. In 2002, he was co-chair of the 31st Annual Benedictine College Scholarship Ball. Throughout the years, his gifts have impacted scholarships, athletics, and many capital campaigns. An alumnus, community leader, veteran, businessman, and devoted family man, he truly models the Benedictine values of “prayer and work.”
Byron has been the recipient of numerous other awards, including the Kansas City Spirit Award; the 2000 Van Ackeren Spirit Award; the Broderick Award; the 2006 Ethics in Business Award and he has been inducted into the Kansas City Business Hall of Fame.
His other civic activities include being a charter member of the Board of Trustees of Rockhurst College; member of the Board of Directors of Benedictine College; and member of the Board of Trustees at Midwest Research Institute. He’s also been a past member of the Advisory Council of the Federal Reserve Bank, 10th District; the Investment Advisory Committee for the Endowment Fund of Union Station; the Board of Trustees of St. Mary’s College in Leavenworth, KS; Prairie Village’s Kansas Development Corporation; the Board of Directors of the Brain Injury Association of Greater Kansas City; and director of St. Joseph Hospital and Carondelet Health Corporation.
He and his family established the annual Amy Thompson Run for Brain Injury to raise money for the Brain Injury Association of Kansas and Greater Kansas City. The event is named in honor of his late daughter, who had suffered brain injuries during a robbery in 1986.
Byron served in the banking industry for over 60 years, 29 years at United Missouri Bank of Kansas City, where he retired as vice chairman in charge of Investment Banking in 1985. Shortly after leaving UMB, he and a group of investors purchased Country Club Bank. Over the last three decades, he has guided that institution from a bank with $45 million in assets and one office to one with $1.5 billion in assets and multiple locations throughout the metropolitan area. He has also been a major investor in other banks in Missouri and Kansas and has served in several banking associations.
Thompson Family Scholarship
Because of his belief in Catholic Education, Byron and his family established the Thompson Family Scholarship at Benedictine College with a donation just prior to his passing.
In a letter to the president, Byron stated that the scholarship “reflects the affinity that all the Thompsons, including Chris, Paul, Mark and Mary, have for the school and for the work and mentoring that you perform on a daily basis. You are truly making a difference in the lives of so many.”
The fund is available to any student who demonstrates need, especially for those coming from large families.