Paul Yates Thompson was born on April 3, 1936 in Pierce, Kentucky, the youngest of five boys and two girls of Marvin Edward and Tressie Mae Thompson. He attended a one room country school for eight years before graduating from Greensburg High School in 1954. He received his B.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Kentucky in 1958. As an undergraduate, he was active in ROTC, Arnold Air Society, ASCE and Tau Beta Pi. As a senior and immediately following graduation, Dr. Thompson worked for the Kentucky Highway Department’s Branch Bridge Office located in the College of Engineering.
Entering the United States Air Force in 1959, Dr. Thompson served in civil engineering and command positions for the next twenty years. While on active duty, he earned his M.S. in Environmental Engineering (1962) at Northwestern University as a Walter P. Murphy Fellow and his PhD in Civil Engineering (1968) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He also completed Squadron Officers School, Air Command and Staff College and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. Retiring in 1979, Dr. Thompson accepted the position of Vice President and Managing Director of Mirabid-Gray International, a young engineering-construction firm in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. During his three-year tenure, the firm grew from 500 employees with $50M in projects to more than 3,000 employees and $760M in projects. In 1982, Dr. Thompson returned to government service as the Chief Scientist of the Air Force Engineering and Services Laboratory, Tyndall AFB, Florida, an organization he helped originate in 1972. During this time he completed Harvard University’s Senior Executive Fellows Program.
In 1987, Dr. Thompson joined the ranks of academia at the University of Florida as Chair and Professor of the Department of Civil Engineering. In 1997, he accepted additional duties as the Chair of the Department of Coastal and Oceanographic Engineering. In 1998, he was appointed Associate Dean of the College of Engineering and in 2000 he was named Associate VP for Research and Graduate Programs. In 2000, he was selected by the Florida Section of ASCE as Engineer of the Year.
Dr. Thompson is a registered professional engineer in Kentucky, Florida and Maryland; a Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers; and a member of Tau Beta Pi, Sigma Xi, Chi Epsilon and the American Society of Engineering Education. His biography has appeared in the Who’s Who, American Men and Women of Science and Engineering, the Dictionary of International Biography, and the National Register of Prominent Americans. He was a founding member of the National Research Council’s National Geotechnical Board. He was selected for UK’s College of Engineering Hall of Distinction in 2000.
Dr. Thompson retired from the University of Florida in 2001. He and his wife Gayle now reside in Franklin, N.C. They have three Children, Dr. Lynn A. Carter, Dr. Jeffrey Y. Thompson and Dr. M. Keith Thompson and five grandchildren.