Photo of awardee

Don Thompson

President and Chief Executive Officer, McDonald’s Corporation
BSEE '84

For his superior management and business leadership, and for his loyalty and support of Purdue University

As President and Chief Executive Officer of McDonald's Corporation, Don Thompson drives business results and global strategic innovation at the leading global foodservice retailer.

As a child growing up near the Cabrini-Green public-housing project in Chicago, Thompson did well in school. While he was in elementary school, his grandmother, who raised him, moved him to Indianapolis and away from a growing gang presence. Thompson's aptitude in math and science attracted the attention of Purdue's Minority Engineering Program, which recruited him to study engineering at Purdue. He was introduced to Purdue's then-Schools of Engineering when he attended MITE, the Multi-ethnic Introduction to Engineering. Soon after he enrolled at Purdue in 1980, and, with his grandmother's steadfast support, he earned an electrical engineering degree in 1984.

Thompson and his wife, Elizabeth, both studied engineering at Purdue. He would later talk about how pivotal the MITE experience had been for them: "While in high school, Elizabeth and I both participated in [MITE]. Prior to that year, we knew little about engineering. After both Liz and I earned our electrical engineering degrees, our lives were never the same. As CEO of McDonald's, I am testimony to how these programs impact and shape lives."

In 1984 Thompson joined Northrop Grumman's defense systems division. Six years later he began his McDonald's career as a restaurant systems engineer, designing robotic equipment for food transport and control circuits for cooking. In his 23 years at McDonald's, Thompson has helped drive business results and global strategic innovation across the organization.

A true advocate of collaboration and believer in the strength of the McDonald's System, Thompson directs strategy and operations for nearly 32,000 restaurants in 119 countries. He and his leadership team work closely with thousands of independent owner/operators, corporate staff and restaurant employees around the world, as well as countless McDonald's suppliers.

His many achievements earned Thompson Purdue's Outstanding Electrical and Computer Engineering Award in 2006. That same year he was named an Old Master at Purdue; and in 2008, he received an honorary doctorate from Excelsior College in Albany, N.Y.

Thompson has been recognized for his leadership and passion by Chicago United (2013 Bridge Award), the Illinois Holocaust Museum (2012 Humanitarian Award), the Executive Leadership Council (2010 Corporate Award), the Trumpet Foundation (2008 Corporate Executive Award), and Black Enterprise (2007 Corporate Executive of the Year).

A leader in the business community, he serves on the Board of Directors for McDonald's Corporation, Ronald McDonald House Charities, Catalyst and Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Thompson also serves as a member of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club, The Economic Club, World Business Chicago and the Brazier Foundation.

He is active in restoring Chicago neighborhoods and helping at-risk youth, in addition to giving his time and talents to Purdue as a member of the Purdue Board of Trustees.

Career Highlights

1990-present President and Chief Executive Officer, McDonald’s Corporation

President, McDonald’s USA
Executive Vice President and Innovation Orchestration Leader,
Restaurant Solutions Group

President, West Division

Regional Vice President, San Diego Region
1984-1990 Engineer, Northrop Grumman
1984 BSEE, Purdue University