Working for a Better Future

Darian Farrell

As a McNair Scholar, Homecoming Regent, president of her sorority, and active community volunteer, it should come as no surprise that Darian Farrell, ’16, was a recipient of the Thompson Working Family Scholarship.

“That scholarship was a miracle!” she says. “It helped pave the way for me and my education at Grand Valley. I’m very grateful to the Thompsons for it.” The scholarship program was stablished by Ellen and Robert Thompson to assist students who might otherwise not be able to attend and finish college solely because of economic reasons.

Going to college became a concern after the financial crash of 2008. The money her parents had saved for she and her sister was no longer available, and Darian took that into account when planning where to attend school. “I knew that when I went to college it would be on me to pay for it,” she says.

“The scholarship took a lot of worry and weight off my shoulders. It allowed me to focus more on my studies.”

The Macomb native first learned of Grand Valley through upperclassmen at her high school. She visited campus for the first time at orientation, and says she completely fell in love.

“My experience at GV could not be topped. Not only did I have an amazing education, but I had an amazing time. It was the best college experience I could have asked for,” she says, noting that the university felt close-knit and welcoming.

Darian began to develop and refine her major focus with the help of her professors, eventually discovering psychology and applied statistics. She says without her professors’ encouragement, she never would have applied to be a McNair Research Assistant.

“Dr. [Christine] Smith saw something in me that I didn’t even see in myself,” says Darian. “That experience changed my life.”

Without the Thompson’s scholarship, Darian feels she could not have been as involved on campus. “It took a lot of worry and weight off my shoulders as a student. It allowed me to focus on my studies and my experience.”

She still maintained a part-time job in the Dean of Student’s office while continuing to participate in campus activities. One of her favorite experiences was serving as the first African-American president of her sorority, Delta Zeta. “It taught me about sisterhood and gave me the foundation to become a stronger, better woman,” she says. “I not only got to be a leader, but I got to learn from incredible leaders.”

Darian plans to attend graduate school in the fall. She hopes that she is eventually able to provide the same leadership and support to students that she received. “I want my Laker effect to be both passion and purpose. I believe that by helping others you can help the world,” she says, adding, “I think it’s so important to give back, because in turn you are giving an opportunity to someone who may not otherwise have it.”

She says she cannot wait to be a donor to Grand Valley. “Without the Thompsons, I would not be where I am today. You are not just giving money, you are giving someone hope for their future.”

Bob and Ellen Thompson

Bob and Ellen Thompson

Robert (Bob) and Ellen Thompson have made a profound impact on Michigan students. Bob and Ellen have funded thousands of K-12 and college scholarships, including the creation of two scholarships at Grand Valley. They established the Thompson Working Family Scholarship to assist students from working families who might not otherwise be able to attend and finish college due to economic hardship. The University Preparatory Academy Scholarship helps graduates from the academy, one of the Thompson’s Detroit nonprofit charter schools, to attend Grand Valley. Bob started out in road construction and built his company, Thompson-McCully, into Michigan’s largest asphalt paving company. Ellen began her career as an elementary school teacher and has maintained her passion for education and teaching. Their generosity and dedication have created a community impact that will have a lasting effect.


To contact University Development or the Grand Valley University Foundation

University Development
Grand Valley State University
L.V. Eberhard Center, 9th floor
301 Fulton St. West
P.O. Box 1945
Grand Rapids, Michigan 49501

P (616) 331-6000

F (616) 331-6099