Tony Thompson golfs to give St. Louis students a fighting chance

UMSL Distinguished Contributor Tony Thompson

Tony Thompson is chairman and CEO of Kwame Building Group and a UMSL Distinguished Contributor. (Photo by August Jennewein)

600 yards. Water on the left. Sand on the right. High rough everywhere else. Just plain daunting.

That’s what most golfers see and feel standing on the tee box of the closing hole of the Dogwood Course at Forest Park. But not Tony Thompson. The St. Louis entrepreneur sees opportunity. He sees college scholarships.

So, when Thompson pulls out his driver it doesn’t matter to him if the ball flies left, right or dead center. Well, it probably matters to him as a golfer but not as a philanthropist.

Thompson is chairman and CEO of Kwame Building Group, a construction management firm that he founded in 1991. His firm has been involved in some of the region’s most visible projects, including construction of the East Terminal at Lambert International Airport.

Thompson also created the Kwame Foundation, whose primary fundraising activity is an annual golf tournament at Forest Park. The foundation donates about $150,000 a year to various colleges for scholarships.

“Education is the great equalizer and there is a real education achievement gap,” says Thompson. “And it’s not just in this country; it’s America versus the rest of the world.”

Through his foundation, Thompson is working to close that gap locally and give area residents a fighting chance.

“We give to a lot of colleges to create opportunities for students,” Thompson says. “Each school has a particular strength that might better fit certain students. We want to make sure those options are available. We want to expand (students’) choices.”

The University of Missouri–St. Louis is one of those primary choices. And, in describing why UMSL, Thompson sounds like a commercial.

“UMSL is a quality school with the greatest number of St. Louis (area) students,” Thompson says. “They graduate from UMSL and stay here.”

Staying here is important to Thompson, as the University of Kansas graduate notes that his alma mater was one of the last scholarships he decided to fund.

“This is my home,” Thompson says. “That was my first priority.”

Martin Leifeld, vice chancellor for university advancement at UMSL, praises Thompson for his St. Louis-first attitude.

“Tony is a great asset to St. Louis in general and UMSL in particular,” Leifeld says. “He built a successful company here that employs dozens of people and contributes to numerous important projects. He’s an active member of the Chancellor’s Council at UMSL. Tony provides great advice and support. He truly gives of his talent and treasure.”

This story was originally published in the 2013 issue of University of Missouri–St. Louis Distinguished Contributors.


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