The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Reflections on Rusty


Rusty Thompson, director of Student Activities and Muster Committee advisor, died March 12 after suffering a heart attack a week prior. In the above photo, Thompson is holding a gift from a student that depicts a quote he has shared with Muster Committee at past first general meetings.

“Throughout my time in Class Councils and spending countless hours in Koldus, there has been a constant positive light in Rusty Thompson. He had a way of brightening an entire room with his presence and that welcoming smile. After Rusty found out I was a co-director for Pull Out Day, he used every opportunity we passed in the halls to give me encouragement and ask about our progress. Rusty will be missed, but I am thankful for the short time I was able to spend with such an amazing Aggie. Here.”
 —Chad Ruesink, Pull Out Day co-director
“Whenever I am asked by someone from the outside what makes A&M so special I give my friend Rusty Thompson as an example of what the true Aggie spirit means. Rusty was a student in the Corps of Cadets who later returned to A&M to serve the students and institution in a true Aggie fashion of selfless service. He did so with humor and a determination to inspire others through his love of our students and the values we aspire to. His example of the Aggie spirit has impacted so many students and others to live out this example of love and caring for others. His legacy is his family and the thousand hearts he touched and inspired over a lifetime.”
—Tim Sweeney, Department of Student Affairs former associate director
“My favorite memory of Rusty is that he took his job seriously, but he always knew how to enjoy himself and how to encourage others to do the same. Even performing a simple task such as grilling at a tailgate, Rusty was intent about doing his part, but all while singing songs out loud, cracking jokes and just simply having fun. Rusty was the embodiment of the Aggie core values and he set an unprecedented example of how all Aggies should strive to live their lives.”
—Kevin Flavin, Traditions Council vice chair
“Rusty Thompson was one of those rare people who remembered each and every person they met, and made sure every single one of those people he encountered knew they were loved and cared for. I’ll never forget the way he was so proud of his faith, his family and Texas A&M, and how evident that was in everything he did — in his conversations, in the way he served Muster Committee and simply in the way he lived his life. He was a constant reminder to our student body of the love Christ has for us, and I will forever be thankful for even the short time I was able to know him.”
—Ali Martinez, Muster Committee media coordinator
“Rusty was the embodiment of the heart of Student Activities; the balance of professional and playful, serious and goofy, compassion and accountability. His legacy of prioritizing faith, family and Fightin’ Texas Aggies will live on in the hearts of those he impacted forever.”
—Sarah Edwards, Department of Student Activities assistant director and Class of 2007
“As we return to our daily tasks in Student Activities this Monday, it is Rusty’s smile and ever present positivity that I will miss most.  And while I am sad that he won’t be there to greet me as I walk through the doors of 125 Koldus, I know that his spirit and love has left an indelible mark on all of us. We will continue his great work and promote the Aggie core values that he personified.”
—Ann Goodman, Department of Student Activities associate director
“I will always remember Rusty Thompson. As one of our advisors in the MSC and Class Councils, he always stood as the epitome of a role model. When Bonfire fell, he held us while we cried and stood strong to show the Aggie spirit. He was my first supervisor in Student Affairs and I couldn’t have had a more patient and understanding leader. He empowered so many to be the best Aggie you could be.”
—Katie Rosenbusch, 2000 class president and MSC Student Advisor
“Rusty was always one of the first staff members to volunteer to distribute Aggie Rings, and he relished every second of it. Over the last week, countless photos have surfaced on social media demonstrating how many students’ Aggie Ring Days he made more special because he was a part of their ring delivery. Frankly, I can’t imagine an Aggie Ring Day without him standing behind a table full of rings, with a big smile on his face. I believe, however, that his spirit will still be with us on April 8th … His kind soul still selflessly serving and cheering on all those Aggies who place that ring on their finger for the very first time.”
—Kellie Malone, The Association of Former Students manager of campus programs
“If A&M had a Superman it would be Rusty Thompson. I have had the honor of knowing him as an undergraduate student and even greater honor serving alongside him in the Department of a Student Activities these past six years. He loved his staff and students fiercely and his spirit and jovial approach to life will never be forgotten. Every Aggie needs a little Rusty Thompson in them and we will continue to strive to impart that spirit in future Fightin’ Texas Aggies.”
—Melissa Shehane, Department of Student Activities associate director and Class of 2004
“From the moment I met Rusty, he became one of my greats. He always had the ability to make you feel like you were the only one in the room when he talked to you; he cared deeply and lovingly for everyone. I owe my entire Aggie experience to this man and the legacy he has instilled in my heart. Rusty didn’t just show what it means to be an Aggie, he personified it in every single thing that he did every single day. I am better for knowing you Rusty.”
—Emily Canales, Aggie Muster Committee family welcome coordinator
“Rusty is among the greatest men I have ever met. His care for others was absolutely unmatched. When you talk about the Aggie spirit, he was truly the definition of it and I strive to live my life to be the caliber of man that Rusty Thompson represented.”
—Drew Nelson, 2013 senior yell leader
“You would be hard pressed to find an Aggie better than Rusty Thompson. There are few who sought to have an impact as deep or wide as Rusty did, and the evidence of that will show for decades. I hope to one day leave a legacy a fraction of the one that Rusty is leaving behind. He will be dearly missed.”
—Matthew Vanderbloemen, Corps of Cadets deputy commander
“I saw Rusty Thompson as my ‘parent away from home,’ as I think many other students did. He was there to support us when the world felt too hectic. He was there to advise and guide when he saw a better way. He was there most of all to love. Rusty had the greatest capacity of anyone I have ever known to love — to love other people, his family, students, his staff, Texas A&M, and to love the way God enabled him to.
I believe the thing that made Rusty such a special person was his sincerity. Rusty’s heart was pure and true, and everything he did, he did genuinely. He accomplished so many things and was incredibly involved, but in his humility and desire to serve others, he always celebrated everyone else. It honestly still doesn’t feel real that Rusty will not be walking around campus when we get back from spring break. But I know that though he might not physically be here, his impact on my life and thousands of others will ripple out and continue to touch people all over the world … I didn’t say it enough, but thank you, Rusty.”
—Madeline Kinnaird, Muster Committee speaker subchair
“Rusty, I remember your composure, faith and leadership during Bonfire ’99. You were a true leader and a great Aggie. We will miss you tons.”
–Jennifer Wellman, Class of 2005
“As a Manager for HR, I loved our lunches and working with him. I would see him at a basketball game yelling and red faced. I would look over at him from a section away, and he would stop yelling and smile that big Rusty smile then turn and get back to yelling. He had more Aggie spirit than anyone I have ever known. He was fun and full of love for life, and I strive to be more like him.”
—Kama Rippy, Class of 1995
“What I learned most from Rusty was that you’re never too busy to take time out of your day to talk with someone. Rusty was a busy man, but he always had his door open, and if you needed help or just wanted to talk he would, without hesitation, take time to talk. That meant the world to me — probably because I was in his office all the time — and is something I try to replicate.”
—Sarah Gibson, Muster Committee special operations subchair
“Rusty taught the RA class when I first became interested in working in housing, then I got to teach the class with him as a grad student. He’s been my role model for this field ever since. He was the best of us. We miss you, Rusty, and we’ll see you again.”
—David Hill, Class of 1993
“I was trying to get a job on campus again, and one of the positions I was a finalist for was in Rusty’s area. I didn’t get the position, but instead of just sending me a form letter or form email of rejection, Rusty called me from his cell phone to talk with me about the decision. I was disappointed, but ended up a month later in the perfect job for me on campus in another department. I will always remember the nicest rejection I ever received, even if he was one year off of being in the best Aggie class ever. I aspire to half 1/86th of the impact Rusty has had. I worked on that campus from 1987 to 2006, then again from 2012 to 2015, and if I added 20 more years I’d still be working to live up to Rusty’s standard.”
—Rebecca Adair, Class of 1986
“I met Rusty in 1996 when he and his family moved in to the new house on our street. Since Blayne and I were just a year apart, we quickly became friends and the Thompsons welcomed me into their home from that day forward. I would have never thought how much the friendship with Rusty and his family would mean to me until he left this world. I can credit him for influencing me to become an Eagle Scout, a Texas Aggie and a better person in my life of faith. I am truly a better person for knowing him.”
—Vince Saladino, Class of 2011
“Rusty set aside an hour of his time so that I could interview him for a class project. After learning more about my goals, Rusty told me that he hoped that I would someday find my way back to Texas A&M through student affairs before giving me his cell phone number and encouraging me to call him if he could help me in any way. I think this is a perfect example of the love and care he had for the students of this university, even if he never directly advised them. If indeed I do return to Aggieland as a professional one day as I dream of doing, I know it will be even more special now because I will always remember and honor this special memory I have of Rusty through the work that I do.”
Paige Hellman, Class of 2015
“Rusty Thompson was a man who made you feel truly seen. My last memory of him was in HEB. As New Yorkers do, I was looking down and accidentally bumped into someone. I apologized, still with my head down, and moved along. I heard a laugh and the person say ‘Why hello Angela.’ I looked up and there was Rusty with a great big smile on his face. It turns out he purposely had bumped into me for laughs. I love this memory because most people who see their colleagues outside of work wouldn’t even think to do what Rusty does. He always would walk up to you, knew your name, and would take a few minutes to catch up. I’ve learned from this great man to always make sure other people are seen.”
Angela Calise, Student Development Specialist II and Class of 2015
“Rusty, I’ll miss our semesterly catch-up lunches at The Feed Barn in Bryan. You remain an inspiration to me in tough times. I’ve seen you go through so much in nearly 20 years, dear friend — almost always with a smile and an anchored sense of purpose.”
—Craig Rotter, assistant director of Residence Life and Class of 1982
“I had only been back at TAMU for less than a year when I was working my first midnight yell at the VIP entrance. As Rusty approached, he made a joke and said ‘Wow! I would have thought you would be out stealing more sandwich boards!’ My reply was simply ‘Only if we go together,’ and this became our running joke. He always made me feel loved and welcome and made me laugh. I hope he snatches up a sandwich board for me up in Heaven. I only pray I can impact a fraction of the people he has.”
Gennie Lynn, Coordinator of Residence Life and Class of 2005
“Rusty is the person every Aggie, student, leader, and person strives to be. Being away from home and at college is difficult for a lot of students. Rusty kind of acted like a father figure to everyone in Student Activities in addition to everyone else he encountered. He had a sense of calming and a way to completely turn your day around and leave you smiling. He left a happy aurora that made you strive to be a better person. He was one of a kind. One of the best.”
Liz Duggan, executive director for Aggie Transition Camps and Class of 2017
My heart was broken to hear the news of Rusty Thompson `85 that passed away. Wow. This was tough news to comprehend. How do you describe someone that truly impacted your life as Rusty and his family did? Rusty served as my class officer advisor and had a true impact on my life at Texas A&M. He embodied what it meant to be an Aggie through service, loyalty, respect, honor, integrity, selfless service, excellence, humility and leadership. He and doctors Chris Davis Townsend and Joe Townsend are the reasons why I chose to seek a career in higher education and academia. I was blessed to know his sweet and precious family, Mrs. Tina, Brenna Thompson, and Blayne Thompson, and even I had the privilege of babysitting sweet Brenna. Rusty was a great Aggie and an amazing person that loved everyone. A devout Christian that loved his God, but always loved and respected everyone, and always helped others. Texas A&M has lost one of the best, but he will never be forgotten. Thank you Rusty for inspiring me and teaching me the importance of servant leadership through your example and to always listen to others with love and respect. I had the honor and privilege of being awarded the Buck Weirus Spirit Award and Margaret Rudder Leadership Service Award as an Aggie student, and he and his family were right there with my family when I won those awards in Rudder Auditorium. Rusty told me last year, ‘You know Kelly, when you told me your junior year I was like a second dad to you while away from home, it made me feel old, but proud too.’ We then laughed together, and we both couldn’t believe how grown up Brenna was. Brenna and Blayne, he was so proud of you both, and loved his family more than himself. Rusty Thompson, you made me a better Aggie and a better person. On behalf of my family, thank you and my God bless you and your sweet family. I will never forget you. I proudly, but sadly say, ‘Here.’ It only feels appropriate to end with the Last Corps that was read by Cardo Walthall at our Senior Elephant Walk with Rusty by the Class of 2003 side.
—Kelly L. Coke, Class of 2003
“Rusty was kind, happy, friendly, open, playful and funny. When he entered the room, somehow your heart just lifted and your day was brightened. He levelled the playing field with colleagues. He never made anyone feel small, insignificant, or unimportant. All people were equals and valued. He remembered your face/name and you were forever his friend no matter where he ran into you. He was a sweet and kind soul. He will be deeply missed, but rejoicing that he is safely in the arms of the Lord.”
Barbara, Dan, and Sean (Class of 2017) Schumacher
“I met Rusty while serving as a support team member for Fish Camp and served with him for several years. His energy, positive attitude, sense of humor, and genuine concern for students and everyone he met endeared him to me very quickly … Such a joy to spend time with him and enjoy his friendship. While serving in multiple capacities with the Federation of Aggie Moms, I was thrilled when Rusty graciously agreed to speak to the Moms on several occasions. His embodiment of the Aggie spirit and his true commitment to his family and to the students and staff at Texas A&M always made me delighted to share any time that I could with this generous, inspiring man who always left me smiling.”
Jeanne Harrell, associate professor, TAMU Libraries
“Rusty is what every Aggie should strive to be, who was admired by many. Through his interactions with everyone he met, the Aggie spirit never burned brighter. The impact he left here at Texas A&M is one that I will always respect. We will miss you dearly and will see you again. Rest in Peace Rusty Thompson.”
Tito Bocanegra, director of Staff Development, Aggie Transition Camps 
“As a long-time colleague and supervisor, Rusty believed in our work and gave staff permission to take risks, be curious, explore new possibilities, learn new skills, and continuously strive to be better. Rusty brought positivity into the workplace that inspires people, makes them feel welcome and included, and lets them know that they are truly valued. As a friend, Rusty was a constant reminder that there is life outside of the office, and he was always supportive of ‘family first.’ He served as an excellent example and role model of what a good parent and spouse should be, and on more than one occasion, I have followed his example with my own family. Rusty is a person that I am thankful to have called my friend, and who I have been fortunate enough to learn from as a professional. Rusty was a sincere and authentic role model to our students and staff, and the ideal example of what it truly means to be an Aggie.”
Jennifer Boyle, Class of 1997 
“Rusty was a great listener — truly cared, positive, appreciative — and his smile was infectious. He always made you feel like your contribution to the department was important and valued. I will miss his smiling face each morning.”
—Linda Lewis, administrative coordinator of Student Activities
“I came to A&M as a graduate hall director. Straight out of a hippy college in D.C., I was so clueless, I made 2-percenters look like yell leaders. Luckily, Rusty was my supervisor. More importantly, he became my mentor and dear friend. He taught me how to live the Aggie mission. He did so simply by being passionate, ethical, fun, kind, selfless Rusty. His example and his friendship will sustain me forever.”
Susan Richardson Barnes, Class of 1994
“Rusty was always quick to crack a joke and lend a helping hand. I don’t know where I’d be without the ‘five-minute talks’ I’d have with Rusty that would last 45 minutes, an hour, or more. Rusty was an incredible Aggie and an even better man. He will be missed but can never be forgotten.”
—Aaron Mitchell, Speaker of the Student Senate
“Between classes, organizations, programs, and more, I have had the opportunity to work with many faculty members. Rusty was truly one-of-a-kind, and I will never forget the interest and care he took towards me; what makes him unique however, was that he showed this same love toward each student and associate with whom he interacted. Rusty never wasted a moment in building relationships with and positively impacting every person he encountered whether that was the Student Body President or an incoming freshman at Fish Camp. I will forever look back and cherish the time God gave me with Rusty Thompson.”
—Mark Lutz, Big Event director
“Rusty always had a smile and warm greeting to share with anyone he met. His values, of his family, his staff, his students, and Texas A&M, showed in all he did. You could always count on Rusty to help out, be a team player, take time for others, and have fun in the process. He was truly one of a kind and will be missed.”
—Kelly Cox, assistant director of Student Life Studies 
“Rusty Thompson was one of the most amazing individuals that I have ever had the privilege to know and work alongside. His unconditional love and passion to serve others bridged every barrier. Not a day went by that Rusty was not making an eternal impact on the individuals around him. His faith, humor, humility, compassion, empathy, and integrity made this man a gentle giant that positively impacted lives for eternity. My life has forever been changed and I am a better person because of the impact Rusty had on me and the life lessons that he blessed me with. His legacy will live in the hearts and lives of those that he touched forever.”
Laura Sigle, associate director of Student Activities
“Rusty Thompson truly exemplified the spirit of Aggieland better than anyone I knew. He was extremely compassionate and generous, and he would always go out of his way if it would help someone else. I feel so honored for knowing him, and I will never forget him. He made such an impact on the people around him here on Earth, and I know Heaven accepted him with open arms.”
Cara Gray, Class of 2011 
“Rusty always made sure to make me feel at home in Aggieland. The way he lived his life was always inspiring and helped me better understand my faith. He knew how to be a friend and not just an advisor and he will be greatly missed and always remembered.”
Santiago Ceron, programs subchair of Muster Committee
“Rusty Thompson loved Texas A&M, loved his job as director of Student Activities, and most importantly, loved his students. He served Texas A&M and every person within the Department of Student Activities with a fervent passion that is unmatched. He was the true embodiment of what it means to be a Fightin’ Texas Aggie and will be sorely missed by me and hundreds elsewhere. My prayers go out to the entire Thompson family in this their time of grief.”
Beni Kashala, class president of 2018
“Rusty is someone I considered an unquestionable constant in regards to his position in Student Activities, but especially in Muster Committee. It was not until his absence might even be an option that I reflected on his true impact on my life for the past year and half. When it boils down to how he affected me, I realized that not a lot of adults have as much patience or confidence in 19-23 year olds as Rusty did. That is something special and I am so grateful to have been a piece of his incredible impact.”
—Marikit Tomlinson, Muster Committee
“Rusty was a friend to all he met. He could be your supervisor and still be your friend. He could be your advisor and still be a friend. He could be your mentor and still be a friend.  For a friend is defined as someone who gives assistance and support and that is what Rusty always did. We’ve all lost a dear friend.”
—Anne Reber, Dean of Student Life

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