Gary Thompson 2006
BS Physical Education ’57
You could physically see the impact of Gary Thompson on Iowa State University in March 2005. After 34 years as a broadcaster, Thompson hung up his microphone to a standing ovation in Hilton Coliseum, an on-air tribute, and lots of hugs, smiles, and tears. ISU’s first first-team basketball All-American stepped off the Cyclone hardcourt the same way he first stepped onto it: as a living legend.
Thompson was reunited for his final game with Jay Randolph, with whom he had broadcast the Big Eight Conference “Game of the Week” for 19 years. On the air that day, he spoke the following words: “Iowa State has always given me more than I’ve been able to give back. But I’m going to keep trying and see if I can catch up.”
Those who know him would argue that it is Iowa State University that owes Thompson a debt of gratitude. He has been a trusted supporter and friend to the athletics department for more than 50 years. From the day the “Roland Rocket” decided to play basketball and baseball at Iowa State to his wise and supportive assistance in the hiring of new men’s basketball coach Greg McDermott just last spring, Thompson has long been the face of Iowa State basketball to fans of all ages.
A natural athlete, Thompson Iowa State’s first two-sport All-American. He helped the Cyclones qualify for their first-ever College World Series and later played basketball for the Phillips 66ers of the AAU, then a more popular league than the National Basketball Association. Today, he is a competitive golfer who won the state senior tournament championship in 1999. Thompson and his wife, Janet, remain extremely active with ISU athletics and the National Cyclone Club.
Thanks in large part to his long affiliation with the Phillips 66ers basketball team, Thompson is today the president of Gary Thompson Oil Co., through which he owns eight convenience stores in Ames and Des Moines. He and Janet are lifetime members of the ISU Alumni Association and members of the Order of the Knoll. Thompson is also an ISU Foundation governor.