"Stick to Core Mission, Focus and Keep it Simple," was the title of John W. Thompson's speech. His words would inspire Ducks Unlimited supporters across the continent. His message would resonate for years as DU's story and mission passed down through generations. John's speech would rivet the conservation world by sharing DU's secrets to 75 years of conservation success.
It would have. It could have. But this particular speech wasn't about conservation.
John, then CEO of Symantec, was actually delivering a speech at Norte Dame University, where he received an Honorary Doctorate degree, about the future of software and Silicon Valley. As a respected leader in both areas, John certainly captivated his audience with wisdom gained both in the boardroom and in the field.
"Stick to the mission," he explained. "It's critical in any field, and Ducks Unlimited is a classic example of why it works. By focusing on its conservation mission for 75 years, DU has become a world leader in wetlands and waterfowl conservation."
John, a lifelong sportsman, grew up in West Palm Beach, Florida. "My dad took me hunting, trapping, and fishing when I was a kid. Years later, I discovered pheasant hunting in South Dakota and haven't missed a season since. Shortly after getting reconnected with hunting, I really learned to enjoy duck hunting which is now my favorite pastime," he said.
John and his wife, Sandi, are committed to supporting DU's mission, giving generously to the organization's conservation efforts on the high-priority waterfowl landscape of coastal California and the Central Valley—particularly the San Francisco Bay Area. They are also among Ducks Unlimited's boldest philanthropic leaders, on DU's President's Council and as Diamond Feather Society members.
John says Ducks Unlimited's dedication to conserving the landscape for future generations to enjoy is at the heart of his family's values as well. "Simply put, we want to make sure our children have wide-open spaces to enjoy, clean water, and clear skies," John explained. "Sandi and I also want to ensure that wildlife isn't forced out of their habitat by the pressures of development, pollution, or unsustainable production."
Sandi's passion for conservation and the environment stems from her childhood in Iowa. Her father was a conscientious custodian of his farmland, recognizing his role as a temporary caretaker for the next generation of farmers. Today, Sandi carries on that tradition by serving on the board of Peninsula Open Space Trust, one of the country's most successful land trusts, and investing in projects with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), such as reef restoration projects and Mississippi delta clean up after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Along with these efforts, Sandi is also a respected attorney and volunteers with local conservation groups in the Bay Area, in addition to serving as a member of the Town of Woodside Planning Commission. John, now CEO of Virtual Instruments, also serves on the boards of UPS, Microsoft, and DU's Wetlands America Trust.
Despite their busy schedules, the Thompsons still find time to enjoy the great outdoors, and John hunts as often as he can. "Our generation has been truly blessed by being able to enjoy many of the things our forefathers enjoyed as our great nation was being developed," John said. "We should all take this to heart and ensure that the generations to come have the same privileges we've had."