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Thompson’s contributions earn him Missouri Honor Award

Thompson poses with his medallion.

Missouri Honor Award recipient James E. Thompson spent most of his career involved in engineering education, including serving as dean of the MU College of Engineering for 20 years before stepping down in 2014.

In honor of his distinguished career, James E. Thompson received the Missouri Honor Award for Distinguished Service in Engineering from the University of Missouri College of Engineering in a ceremony March 18 at Hampton Inn & Suites in Columbia.

The award is given annually on the Friday of the College of Engineering’s Engineers’ Week celebration. Criteria are as follows:

  • Exceptional efforts by an individual or an organization to foster the professional development of young engineering college graduates,
  • Exceptional ability in the planning and direction of significant and important projects in technical engineering,
  • Exceptional contributions by an individual to technical engineering knowledge, and/or
  • Exceptional contributions by an individual or an organization to insure and enhance the success of the college and its students

Thompson spent most of his career involved in engineering education, including serving as dean of the MU College of Engineering for 20 years before stepping down in 2014. During his tenure as dean (1994-2014), the College of Engineering more than doubled its undergraduate student enrollment and initiated degree programs in bioengineering, computer science and information technology.

Thompson also oversaw growth in undergraduate research, student teams, international involvement and hands-on, lab-based learning, as well as overseeing the introduction of entrepreneurship opportunities for faculty and students. He established the College of Engineering Office of Research and helped establish joint faculty positions with the School of Medicine, College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, College of Veterinary Medicine, Geography Department, Bond Life Sciences Center, the Dalton Cardiovascular Center and the Missouri Research Reactor, among a litany of other accomplishments.

Thompson’s involvement in engineering education continues today as he serves as a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at MU. His time spent in education allowed him to share his expertise in a variety of fields, including high voltage; electro-optics; electrical breakdown phenomena in gases, liquids, solids and vaccum; pulsed power systems and devices; lasers; fast electrical and optical diagnostics; high power switches and dielectric materials.

Thompson earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate from Texas Tech, then spent two years with the senior technical staff at the Laser Laboratory of Northrop Research and Technology center. He then worked in a variety of faculty positions at the University of South Carolina from 1976 to 1983, then spent four years at the University of Texas at Arlington from 1983 to 1987. Prior to coming to MU, he served as the dean of engineering at the University of New Mexico.