Philanthropy: A Family Tradition
As young adults, Scott and Terri Thompson met and fell in love in the warm, sunny city of Dallas, Texas. At the time, Scott was working for Texas Instruments, while Terri had a thriving career in Human Resources.
Scott would frequently bring Terri, a Texas native, with him on visits to his hometown of State College, Pennsylvania. “I visited for over 10 years and thought I could never live here. Now, I love living here. You just have to accept the weather,” Terri quips.
Twenty-three years ago, a business opportunity was presented to them and offered the chance to relocate to central Pennsylvania.
“The original plan didn’t work out so well. But, we came up with something else, and that was Oberon. In 1999, we incorporated it and I’ve been the Engineer/Business Manager and CEO/Founder since that time,” Scott adds.
Oberon is a product engineering company that designs metal fabricated cabinets and enclosures for the wireless industry. It’s been successful for the Thompson family, and its sale is what provided the family with the opportunity to create two endowment funds at Centre Foundation and invest back into the community.
After settling into life in State College, the Thompsons sought out opportunities for civic involvement. For Scott, that meant becoming involved with Trout Unlimited by performing fish counts and monitoring the health of various local streams. Throughout the years, he’s also made time to volunteer with ClearWater Conservancy’s Annual Watershed Cleanup Day.
For Terri, her civic involvement took shape by joining the PTA, Welsh Swim Team Board, and various church committees at the State College Presbyterian Church. She has also served as a member of the Women’s Welcome Club for over twenty years.
For the Thompsons, the opportunity to become philanthropically involved seemed natural. They were following a path that respected family members had paved before them.
“My mom volunteered at the hospital for over 30 years, and my dad was on the Boy Scout Committee. I was always aware of that,” Scott recalls fondly. “Our scout leader put in a lot of his own time for our troop. And that’s the stuff that you’re noticing [as a child]. That these adults are putting in time with us. That’s philanthropic,” Scott says.
“My parents were young parents, so my relatives helped raise us. [My parents] taught us to work hard and be good, but it was my extended family – my grandparents, and aunts, and uncles – that taught me a servant mentality. They taught me what to do to help others,” Terri elaborates.
As fund holders, the Thompsons’ involvement with Centre Foundation also stemmed from familial influence.
“I got interested because of Scott’s parents. Mainly, his parents did a lot with granting distributions to the Youth Services Bureau. I got involved on the back end helping my father-in-law with the donations and coordinating the gifts. Seeing their generosity got me interested and wanting to know more,” Terri explains.
Scott also attributes his philanthropy, in part, to his father Fred’s example. Fred established a donor advised fund with Centre Foundation in 2003. “When you see that [impact] year after year, [the importance of that] sinks in,” Scott says.
Scott and Terri now hold two funds with Centre Foundation: A donor advised fund which allows them to recommend grants to nonprofits of their choosing each year and a designated fund which is set up to exclusively benefit ClearWater Conservancy.
For the time being, the Thompsons intend for their donor advised fund to primarily benefit their parish, the State College Presbyterian Church.
“[The ability to add to the fund over time] gives us a lot of flexibility. We can grow it out and make donations to other organizations as we see fit, but initially, we will be directing it to the church. They’re positioned well to help people in need, when they need it. It’s very targeted. They are a valuable asset to the community,” Scott points out.
Their designated fund will help ClearWater Conservancy meet their mission of “nurturing a healthy environment and thriving communities in the heart of Pennsylvania”.
“Seeing what ClearWater is doing here, it seemed like a sure bet. They’re protecting valuable resources. [Doing so has positive] ramifications downstream. Literally. We have an opportunity. [Our streams] are still here and we need to take care of them. If we don’t…they’ll disappear”, Scott elaborates.
“He is his father’s son. He gives to others before himself,” Terri praises.
“Well, you know. When you get the chance. We always learned that when you went camping, you left your campsite in better condition than you found it. That became a philosophy [for me],” Scott demurs.
Through the benefits of both a donor advised and designated fund, one thing is clear: the Thompsons are certainly making an impact that leaves their community in better condition than they found it.