By Stella Katsipoutis-Varkanis

In the eighth grade, Liam Thompson ’24 penned a letter to his future self, describing where he wanted to be in four years: playing soccer at Lafayette. 

“I grew up around the campus,” says the Phillipsburg native. “I went to the Phillipsburg vs. Easton rivalry football game every year, I played soccer tournaments there, and my aunt even got married in Colton Chapel. I didn’t realize the weight of my words at the time, but even in middle school, Lafayette was on my radar.”

Headshot of Lafayette student Liam Thompson '24

While he eventually decided to set aside his childhood interest in soccer to focus on his greater passions for engineering and theater, Thompson manifested his vision and became a Lafayette student just four years later. His driving motivation throughout his college career was simple: to bring happiness to others while pursuing his own. To do that, he carved his own unique path as an integrative engineering major who also engaged his artistic side by acting for the Marquis Players (Lafayette’s student-run theater organization that donates its earnings to Lehigh Valley community organizations) and the Department of Theater, as well as singing for the Mar-Keys student a cappella group. 

“As a student, you don’t come to Lafayette to just be an academic; you come to get the full experience and develop life skills you’re going to carry with you beyond school,” Thompson says. “Lafayette gave me the opportunity to do things outside of my major that were important to me, and that’s what life is about. Not just finding one track that leads to your happiness, but finding all the things that complete you.”

On the academic front, Thompson’s affinity for math and science naturally drew him to the study of engineering. Although he originally planned on following the bioengineering track of the integrative engineering major, he landed on the environment and energy track after participating in an externship with The Trustees of Reservations, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving natural and historical places in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, during his sophomore year. His conversations with an ecologist who was working on a wildlife restoration project at the time gave Thompson a clear vision of what he wanted his own future to look like. 

“The way natural life systems work together has always been interesting to me,” Thompson says. “After some discussion with my adviser at the time, Lauren Anderson, [professor and William Jeffers Dean of the Engineering Division], I was able to shift the focus of my major, take classes that aligned with my interests, study with great professors, and work with the College and other organizations on strengthening environmentally friendly and waste-reducing best practices.” 

As an EXCEL Scholar, Thompson worked alongside David Brandes, professor of civil and environmental engineering and Walter A. Scott Chair of Integrative Engineering; and Dru Germanoski, Dr. Ervin R. Van Artsdalen Professor of Geology, on their research on the ecological effects of the removal of dams along Easton’s Bushkill Creek.  

“Prof. Brandes is probably the most influential professor and adviser I’ve had over the course of my four years at Lafayette, and Prof. Germanoski is awesome,” Thompson says. “It was eye-opening to go out in the field and work with them in a more one-on-one experience. It helped me sharpen my leadership and problem-solving skills, practice collecting data and using surveying equipment, and develop confidence in a space that was new to me.”

In June, Thompson will start his engineering career with the distribution team at PPL Electric Utilities. “What I love about my engineering degree is that it’s not something that constrains you. No matter what I choose to do professionally in the future, it will help me get there.” 

Outside of his academic pursuits, Thompson’s co-curricular activities are where his creative star shined. Since he joined the Marquis Players during his sophomore year, he has worked on the build crew for the organization’s production of Legally Blonde and acted in the production of Footloose. He was elected as vice president of the Marquis Players in the 2023-24 academic year—during which he also served as co-artistic director of, and acted as a lead in, the production of Cabaret. The show raised more than $5,000 to support the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown, Pa. With these funds, the Marquis Players also reached the milestone of having cumulatively raised $100,000 over the organization’s lifetime. 

Liam Thompson '24 performing in the Marquis Players spring 2024 production of Cabaret

Liam Thompson ’24 performing onstage as Emcee in the Marquis Players’ spring 2024 production of Cabaret

 “It was a unique experience that let me see all sides of musical production firsthand,” Thompson says. “It allowed me to hone my leadership, organizational, and management skills by putting me in a position where I had to not only make decisions and balance responsibilities like budgeting, but also create a supportive arts-driven space that our talented students would invest in. I wanted the show to be an amazing experience for them—especially the underclassmen, since it’s something I’m passing on to them.”

What he’s learned inside the classroom as an engineering student, Thompson says, helped him flourish in his directorial debut: “The systems-minded approach of integrative engineering served to be very useful,” he explains. “Project management, conflict resolution, working with different students and communicating with them to make sure we meet our mark and accomplish our goals—all of that was rooted in my engineering education.”

Jake Salgado, assistant professor of scenography and adviser for the Marquis Players, also was a significant influence for Thompson over the past year: “I am thankful for Prof. Salgado, who has been so helpful through challenges. As someone who’s been in the professional world of theater, he was a great resource to learn from, and he’s further inspired me to pursue theater in my future.” Thompson—who was recently inducted into Alpha Psi Omega, the honorary society for students studying theater—says he’s hoping to dive into community theater post-graduation, and is considering eventually pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts.

In addition to his work with the Marquis Players and the Theater Department, Thompson sang for the Mar-Keys and was one of the founding members of men’s club volleyball. He also was a resident adviser for two years, and worked for Residence Life as a head resident this year. One of his favorite aspects of the RA role was helping to create a home away from home for first-year students: “Having the support of a great resident adviser can change what a new student thinks is possible, so it’s been a rewarding experience. I’m a better person and student for it.”

Headshot of Lafayette student Liam Thompson '24Thompson is grateful for the many opportunities he’s had at Lafayette to engage in a wide range of activities that have laid down, brick by brick, the path to his fulfillment as a college student and beyond. 

“One of Lafayette’s hidden gems is the level at which its many passionate, motivated students are committed to their activities,” he says. “There are so many amazing students here who are excited for you to arrive on campus and get involved. They want to make an impact with you. The most meaningful thing I’m taking away from my Lafayette experience is the people I’ve met; I wouldn’t be here without them. And I had the opportunity to do all these things with them because of the College’s support. My advice to new students: Get involved. Find the clubs on campus that align with what you love doing. You never know how it will pay off.”

Categorized in: Academic News, Class of 2024, Commencement 2024, Engineering, Featured News, Integrative engineering, News and Features, Student Profiles, Students, The Arts, Theater

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use basic HTML tags and attributes.