Central College News

Central College Brings Industry Leader to Prepare Students in Business

Featured: Central College Brings Industry Leader to Prepare Students in Business

November 20, 2023

Central College welcomes Clay Thompson, retired vice president of Caterpillar Financial Services, a member of the Central Board of Trustee and a 1990 Central graduate, as an executive in residence for the Fall 2023 semester.

“Clay brings global business expertise to Central students,” says Mary E.M. Strey, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty. “He is so committed to Central students. He is teaching in and out of the classroom, working with them to support their success and passions.”

Thompson is teaching the course Leading a Problem-Solving Organization and is working with faculty and students as a guest speaker in other courses across campus. He has a particular passion for leadership and continuous improvement.

“The concept for Clay’s class is acknowledging that as a leader you have all these demands on your time and attention,” says Maggie Fisher Schlerman, associate professor of accounting and a 2002 graduate of Central. “You can’t say yes to everything. In Thompson’s class, students learn what tools to have in their skill set to prioritize work. What is going to be the best use of your time and effort? Students find the content super relevant and useful.”

Thompson’s knowledge and inspiration to teach Central students stems from his professional career. He began working in a private legal practice in Davenport, Iowa. Four years later, he accepted a position as a lawyer for Caterpillar, Inc., and eventually left the legal department to lead multiple other business functions. Thompson’s 25-year career with Caterpillar took him to China and Japan before retiring as the vice president of Caterpillar Financial Services responsible for sales and operations in Latin America.

After graduating from Central in 1990 as an English major, Thompson earned his J.D. at the University of Iowa College of Law and an MBA from the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business.

While on campus, Thompson is working with students on professional development, resume building, career counseling and law school planning as well as developing a podcast called “On Leadership ….”  The series will be released in mid-November. The first podcast features an interview with Jason Andringa, president and CEO of Vermeer Corp.