“Service above self.” It’s a motto Debbie Thompson says she learned through her involvement with Rotary and it’s one that she has adopted into how she approaches life.

“I believe giving back means everything,” says Thompson. “It makes you feel good and you’re making an impact in others’ lives.”

A former faculty member who worked as a dental hygienist for more than 30 years, Thompson’s heart for giving has definitely made an impact on students at Missouri Southern.

Four years ago, she established the Debbie Thompson Spirit of Dental Hygiene Scholarship. Each fall, two dental hygiene students – a first-year and a second-year – receive the $2,500 scholarship. Over her lifetime, she hopes to help 60 to 70 students in the program.

Thompson is also known for her generosity to students involved in the athletics program.

She serves on the department’s steering committee and is a regular presence at football, basketball and baseball games. She even purchased new jerseys for the basketball team when she learned there was a need.

Her late husband, Patrick Thompson, called games for Southern’s baseball team and once purchased much-needed bats for the program. The press box bears his name, and the family has a suite at the stadium.

Thompson says she hopes current students are inspired to one day give back.

“It’s about paying it forward,” she says. “I hope these students find their passion in life and support it by volunteering or giving money back. Our time on Earth is short. It’s important to leave a legacy behind.”