By Samantha Simmons | November 1, 2021
“I didn’t even know what to appreciate.”
Jay Thompson is not your traditional college student. Before enrolling at the University at Albany, he had spent the last 20 years in a career with the U.S. Army in the infantry. What followed was being a Distinguished Honor Graduate of the U.S Army Flight School that led to an officer career in Army Aviation and has raised a family with his wife.
Growing up, Thompson did not think of the future but rather the day to day. He was living life and looking at it for what it was rather than what it could be. Before enlisting into the U.S. Army in 2001, he knew he needed to do “a lot of growing-up” before going to college. It was a “moment of humility” where he realized he was “not as talented or lucky” as he thought that ultimately led him to make this decision.
While in the Army, he met the woman he would eventually marry and have two children with.
As his children were growing up, he was able to run with his oldest and help both of his children with their math homework and do all the things parents hope they will not be too tired to do for their children. One memory that sticks out to Thompson is trying to learn gymnastics with his daughter, something he knew nothing about previously. He compared this event to his new college career and his eldest daughter who is also in college; “We’re both getting stronger and smarter in complement with each other.”
Retrospectively, he realizes how fortunate he was to be able to grow up with his children. When he had his daughters, he started to value education and realized there was something here to build in both education and with his wife and kids. He also valued the idea that a pursuit of education would keep the respect he has built with his children.
“In the process of taking care of someone else, I found myself,” he reflected.
He knew he had outgrown the military, materially and ideologically. He says, “Even though the job paid well, it didn’t allow for me to put my family first.” Thompson knew he needed to keep the quality of his relationships and life up, so leaving the Army was the way to maintain those relationships.
In choosing UAlbany, he looked to the diversity that the campus offers. There is a wide array of backgrounds and cultures here that will allow for him to work with people that help him learn about anything he wants to as well as improve his own human qualities.
In his essay for admissions consideration to UAlbany, he wrote “I can confidently promise you now, after a long odyssey, that I am ready to be a guardian of our republic.” In his journey, he is now ready to serve the community with public service in a different way than he has done before.
Thompson is currently pursuing an education in public policy and management through the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy in hopes of earning a master’s degree in public administration. He hopes to someday serve as a U.S. Congressman, preferably in the state of New York.