Indiana State University Newsroom

Distinguished Alumni Award honorees announced

October 3, 2022

Dr. George Washington Buckner, John Thompson, and Paul Thrift are the 2022 recipients of Indiana State University’s Distinguished Alumni Awards, the university announced Monday.

They will be recognized November 4 at the annual President’s Dinner with the University’s philanthropy award honorees. Dr. Buckner’s award is posthumous.

"We’re incredibly happy to honor these three alumni who not only have had highly-accomplished careers but also a record of community service," ISU President Dr. Deborah J. Curtis said. "We celebrate their achievements and are proud of the examples they set as outstanding Sycamores."

Presented annually since 1957, the Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes alumni who have made significant achievements professionally and within their communities, locally and globally.

"The passions of Indiana State University alumni Dr. Bucker, Paul Thrift, and John Thompson have made a positive difference in the lives of so many," said Clint Weddle, Executive Director of the ISU Alumni Association. "We are proud to honor the 2022 Distinguished Alumni Award recipients as their professional achievements and community service exemplify the objectives of their ISU alma mater."              

Said Andrea Angel, Vice President of University Advancement and CEO of the ISU Foundation: "Each year, we look forward to recognizing outstanding Sycamores in our new class of Distinguished Alumni Award recipients. Paul and John have a truly unique story as they began their multi-national business as students in the College of Technology. Dr. Buckner's career of service to others and perseverance is one that all Sycamores can admire."

Bios of the award winners:

Dr. George Washington Buckner, 1871

Buckner became the first Black diplomat to a foreign country in 1913 when President Woodrow Wilson appointed him U.S. Minister and Consul General to Liberia. Buckner was born a slave in Kentucky in 1855. He attended school in Indianapolis and graduated from the Indiana State Normal School, now Indiana State University, in 1871. While teaching in Vincennes, he went to Indiana Eclectic Medical College and graduated in 1890. He practiced medicine in Evansville and founded the Cherry Street YMCA. Buckner’s time as a diplomat lasted less than two years because of health problems. He returned to Evansville and practiced medicine and became a civil rights activist. Buckner died in 1943 at age 87.

John Thompson, ‘06

As Chief Executive Officer of Thompson Thrift Construction, Thompson is responsible for the overall direction of the company, including preconstruction, construction services, and field operations. He founded Thompson Thrift with partner Paul Thrift in 1986 while he was a student at Indiana State. Since then, Thompson and Thrift have expanded the business into a highly-regarded full-service real estate development and construction company. Thompson has served on various boards, including Boy Scouts of America, Terre Haute Children’s Museum, National Association of Home Builders Construction Council, Executive, and National Multifamily Housing Council Design and Construction.

Paul Thrift, ‘91

As CEO of Thompson Thrift Development, Thrift oversees the company’s asset portfolio and new market opportunities. He founded Thompson Thrift with partner John Thompson in 1986 while he was a student at Indiana State. Under their leadership, the business has grown into the nationally recognized full-service real estate development and construction company it is today. During his tenure as its CEO, Thrift has successfully guided Thompson Thrift Development through the competitive real estate marketplace while expanding its portfolio to include multifamily, industrial, and commercial mixed-use developments across the country. He is an active community member, having served on multiple boards and committees, including the Indiana State Chamber, the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce, the ISU Foundation Board and the Scott College of Business Dean’s Council. Because of his dedication to the community and Thompson Thrift, Thrift was recognized in the Indiana Business Journal’s Top 250 list this year.

Photo of Dr. George Washington Buckner (must credit: Evansville Museum of Arts, History & Science)

Photo of John Thompson

Photo of Paul Thrift