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Multimillion-dollar gift to support Kimbel Library and Bryan Information Commons at CCU

May 29, 2019
The Bryan Information Commons at CCU.John Thompson, a longtime Conway resident and CCU benefactor.Kimbel Library at CCU.

Coastal Carolina University has received a $4.425 million gift from the estate of former longtime Conway residents John and Barbara (Richardson) Thompson. The gift, one of the largest ever received by the University, will provide resource support for Kimbel Library and the Bryan Information Commons, which serve as vibrant, student-centered gathering places on campus.

"John and Barbara Thompson's thoughtfulness to leave a legacy gift to their hometown university will have a lasting impact on our campus and our students for many years to come," said CCU President David A. DeCenzo. "We are extremely grateful for their transformational donation as well as for the ongoing support from the entire Thompson family."

The Thompsons were married in July 1957 and lived in Conway during their entire 59 years of life together. They died just five days apart in September 2016 - John on the 24th and Barbara on the 29th. They were charter members of Trinity United Methodist Church in Conway and longtime benefactors of the University. Among their many donations was the establishment of the John Coleman Thompson Endowed Scholarship in 1998.

"The Thompsons' generosity will play a powerful role in providing critical resources for the everchanging learning needs of our students," said Bryan Steros, CCU's interim vice president for philanthropy. "Our gratitude for this gift is beyond measure."

John graduated from Conway High School in 1947. Four years later, he earned a bachelor's degree from Davidson College. From June 1951 through June 1954, he served on active duty with the U.S. Army Counter Intelligence Corps. He then entered the University of South Carolina Law School in 1954, where he earned a Bachelor of Laws degree in September 1956. From 1956-1998, he practiced law in Conway, where he cofounded Thompson & Henry P.A. in 1973. John was a member of the Horry South Carolina Bar and the American Bar Association and was president of the Horry County Bar Association.

"My Uncle John loved to read and loved to learn," said Philip Thompson, a 1990 CCU graduate, who serves as the managing partner of Thompson & Henry - one of the oldest law firms in Horry County. "Libraries were a big part of his learning. And my Aunt Barbara used to be a school teacher. They both strongly believed in education. With Coastal being so instrumental in higher education in this area, they thought this gift would be the best way to benefit both the University and its students."

John Thompson was very involved in various public and civic duties. He served as a member of the House of Representatives of the South Carolina Legislature from 1961-1963. He was a member of the board of directors of the South Carolina Public Service Authority from 1968-1976, serving as chairman in 1975 and 1976. He also served as a director of the former Peoples National Bank and the Conway National Bank. John served on the Coastal Educational Foundation board of directors from 1973-1981. He also served as the foundation's legal counsel for approximately 20 years. John was named an honorary founder of Coastal Carolina University in 2002.

After graduating as salutatorian from Bennettsville High School in 1951, Barbara attended the University of South Carolina, where she was a member of Chi Omega sorority. She held various offices in her sorority and at the university during her four years. In 1955, she graduated cum laude from the university with a bachelor's degree. From 1955-1957, she taught business courses at Eau Claire High School in Columbia. She also taught English and history for five years in Conway.

"There are no words to express the gratitude we have for this donation," said Melvin Davis, University librarian. "We are extremely fortunate that the Thompsons loved Coastal Carolina University and libraries. The endowment provides unique opportunities to sustain and enhance library services that are relevant for today's and tomorrow's students. We plan to use the interest to do a multitude of things ranging from modernization of the facilities and furnishings to developing opportunities for new library programming and resources for Coastal students."