Thompsons picked as 2021 Honorary Family 

John and Debbie Thompson’s family roots with Pittsburg State University run deep. 

When John was 18, he moved to Pittsburg from Northwest Arkansas to get a degree in Automotive Technology and then go find his life. 

He never dreamed that Pittsburg State, and the community of Pittsburg, would literally BE his life. 

That was 1987. Thompson is now a professor in and the chair of the Automotive Technology Department. 

Debbie works in the Office of Admission and grew up on campus — her dad, Ken Gordon, started teaching in Automotive Technology in 1966, and she and John met as students. They’re now celebrating 31 years of marriage, and their children are all Gorillas. 

Their daughter, Anna, has been calling herself a Gorilla since childhood — she attended Little Gorillas Preschool in the Family & Consumer Sciences building. 

Now, she’s a sophomore and having “the best time of my life,” she said, majoring in social work and working in the Office of Student Diversity. 

Her brothers, Jake and Josh, are alumni, as is her brother Caleb, who is back on campus working on his master’s degree.  

It makes them the perfect choice, said Lance Moser, assistant director of Development, as this year’s Honorary Family — an award given at Family Day since 1993, sponsored by Advancement Ambassadors and the PSU Foundation. 

As this year’s winners, the Thompson family will receive tickets to the game this Saturday, the immediate family will receive an invitation to watch the game from the skybox, they are invited to a luncheon featuring previous winning families, they will have dinner with President Steve Scott, and they will receive a gift basket and on-field recognition at halftime. 

“It's an honor to have been chosen as the Honorary Family and it makes us feel very appreciated by Pitt State,” said Anna, who is active on campus with Hispanics of Today and other student organizations.  

It was her brother, Caleb, who submitted the winning entry in this year’s contest. He is a Golden Gorilla award winner, was nominated for Outstanding Senior, and was a member of the Society of Plastic Engineers, Crimson Club, National Society of Leadership and Success, and Kappa Mu Epsilon. 

“I believe that my family should be chosen as the Honorary Family because of our deep connections with Pittsburg State, our involvement in the university and the community, and because I believe my family reflects and instills a lot of the same moral standards that Pittsburg State offers its students and employees,” he wrote. “Ever since I was a little boy, and even before that, Pittsburg State has been a home for us all.” 

Debbie and John are both proud their family was chosen for the award. 

“It feels humbling and we are very honored to be chosen,” Debbie said. “Pittsburg State has been a part of my life personally speaking since before I was born. It's very special for sure. 

“It's a real honor to be chosen among so many outstanding and upstanding families with kids who attend PSU,” John said. “Deb and I and our kids have always been very intricately involved with all things PSU, so it's cool for our son to nominate the family.” 

Debbie’s parents and siblings also graduated from Pittsburg State, as did many extended family members. 

“Simply speaking, Pitt State is home,” Debbie said.

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Free to PSU employees and PSU students with ID. All others may purchase online or in person at the Weede Gymnasium, 1701 S. Homer, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, or in person on the east side of the stadium on game day.