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Gifting the W&L Experience Jay Thomas '03 was able to attend W&L with the help of a scholarship, and now he and his wife are paying it forward.

Jay-and-Melissa-Thomas-CROPPED-888x768 Gifting the W&L Experience

“The McFall Scholarship gave me the ability to choose the college I wanted to attend without worrying about the financial impact it would have on me and my family, and for that I am forever grateful.”
~ Jay Thomas ’03

For Jay Thomas ’03, his four years at Washington and Lee were the gift of a lifetime — leading to a rewarding career, lifelong friends, and an alumni network connecting people across generations and diverse experiences. Thomas said it was all thanks to a scholarship he received, and now he is paying it forward by building his own scholarship for future W&L students. The Melissa and Jay Thomas ’03 Scholarship Endowment will support students with financial need, enabling them to benefit from the full W&L experience.

“Honestly, one of the main reasons I chose W&L was the fact that I was lucky enough to be offered a scholarship,” Thomas said. After visiting the university during the fall of his senior year of high school, he fell in love with the campus and the community of Lexington, but he knew the cost of his education would put a financial strain on his parents. “The McFall Scholarship gave me the ability to choose the college I wanted to attend without worrying about the financial impact it would have on me and my family, and for that I am forever grateful,” he said.

Thomas has spent the past 17 years of his professional career at Walker & Dunlop, a commercial real estate finance company headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, which has employed a fair number of W&L alumni. Thomas is now a senior managing director in the Denver office and credits the university’s trademark alumni network with helping him find his path. He learned about the company from his W&L football teammate Will Baker ’01 and then was hired there by Howard Smith ’80 in 2003.

As a student, Thomas played football and was named one of the team’s captains during his senior year at W&L and honored as an Academic All-American. He served as treasurer of the Kappa Alpha Order and was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society. He graduated Summa Cum Laude with a degree in business administration. “My W&L experience was incredible,” Thomas said. “I have so many fond memories, from floating down Maury River and fishing out at Beans Bottom during Spring Term, to the smell of the grass on Wilson Field on Saturday mornings before a football game, or just walking down the Colonnade in the fall when the leaves are changing.”

“Everyone in the community has a vested interest in doing their part for the benefit of the whole.”
~ Jay Thomas ’03

Thomas remembered with a laugh a celebration dinner at the Southern Inn with all the seniors in his fraternity and their families the night before his graduation. They ended the night with a friendly foot race down Main Street between Thomas and basketball team captain John Warren ’03 to see who was the fastest. “It felt like a family, and that is what W&L does to you — you leave with a special bond, and anyone you meet who went to school there, even if your time didn’t overlap — that bond is there,” he said. “Everyone in the community has a vested interest in doing their part for the benefit of the whole.”

While he was a student Thomas recalled writing thank you notes to express his gratitude for his scholarship to the fund’s donors and wishing he could do more. A little over three years ago, he wrote once again to the donors to share that he and his wife planned to build a scholarship endowment over time to help shape the lives of future students in the way that the McFall Scholarship had benefited him. “Finally, those simple words on a piece of stationery felt like enough,” he said.