February 15, 2021

While Dr. Wes Thompson only taught at Texas A&M University for a short time, his name will live on thanks to a chair he endowed in the College of Science that will enable researchers to continue his work in neurobiology. His impact reaches far beyond the financial. “In addition to his scientific research, a large number of students that he trained are still working in neurobiology and carrying on his legacy,” said Dr. Tom McKnight, professor and head of the Department of Biology. “He was a brilliant scientist and teacher and just a terrific person.”

McKnight worked with Thompson at Texas A&M for six years before Thompson’s death in 2019. He remembers his colleague as warm, funny, and generous with his time and knowledge, but most of all, “his graduate students absolutely loved him. He was so invested in their careers,” McKnight added.

Thompson’s endowed chair will attract bright minds like Dr. Isabella Farhy-Tselnicker, who joined the College of Science in 2020 to study the role of astrocyte-neuron communication in major brain disorders.

Thompson’s daughter, Annie, agreed. “He was a wonderful mentor. He cared so much about his students. When I was growing up, some of them almost became members of the family,” she recalled, noting how Thompson celebrated successes from weddings to tenure with them, even years after graduation. “He just really loved his students. As he was dying, the only thing he wanted to do was go into work and make sure his graduate students were going to be okay.”

It was that care and concern for his students and the field of neurobiology that motivated Thompson to gift his Austin, Texas, home to the Texas A&M Foundation for their real estate specialists to sell and use the proceeds to endow a faculty chair in the College of Science.

“He was deeply curious,” Annie said. “He wanted to allow others to explore their curiosity and to ask questions. He hoped his gift would further the cause of neurobiology and allow people to make advances in this field.”

Thompson led by example in the classroom and in life. While he cannot be replaced, this gift will allow the university to hire another esteemed neurobiologist to carry on his work. “It is another part of his legacy that will live forever,” McKnight said. “This endowed chair will always be here, and the honor of holding an endowed chair named after Wes Thompson will be a big attraction for a lot of neurobiologists. This gift will help us recruit scientists of the highest caliber.”

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