The board of directors of Thor Industries Inc. announced today (Nov. 13) that its co-founder, chairman, president and CEO, Wade F. B. Thompson, died Thursday after a 14-year battle with five cancers.
Thompson, 69, founded Thor in 1980 with Peter B. Orthwein, Thor’s current vice chairman, with the acquisition of Airstream Inc., the renowned travel trailer builder. Thompson turned Airstream around from a $12 million annual loss immediately prior to purchase to a $1 million profit in its first year. Thor went public on Jan. 11, 1984, and was listed on the New York Stock Exchange on Aug. 29, 1986, six years to the day after its founding.
Thompson always said that his major business legacy was not only helping build Thor into the leading manufacturer of recreation vehicles and buses. Also part of that legacy was Thor’s history of never losing money. “Even during fiscal 2009, a year of world-wide recession and a depression in the RV industry, Thor made money,” Thor’s release adds.
From his office in New York City, Thompson devoted his last decade to helping find a cure for cancer, most notably by founding the Drive Against Prostate Cancer in 2000. “The Drive,” consisting of two Airstream mobile medical vehicles, has given over 101,000 free prostate cancer screenings to men, particularly the under-served and veterans.
“About 5% of the men have an abnormality and “The Drive” has saved about 5,000 lives due to early detection,” according to Thor’s release. “He was a major contributor to Zero-The Project to End Prostate Cancer, the Prostate Cancer Foundation, Cancer Research Institute and actively financed clinical trials for melanoma and colon cancer in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.”
Wade Thompson was also deeply dedicated to the arts, historic preservation and conservation and was the founder and chairman of the Seventh Regiment Armory Conservancy whose mission is to restore and revitalize the historic Park Avenue Armory at 66th Street in Manhattan into a world class venue for the performing and visual arts. The Armory’s 60,000-square-foot, seven-story-high Drill Hall is named in his honor.
He was a major supporter of Central Park Conservancy, the Municipal Art Society and Mystic Seaport Museum. His other interests were tennis and collecting contemporary art.
Thompson is survived by his wife of 42 years, Angela; his children, Charles A. Y. Thompson and Amanda Jane Thompson Riegel; his daughter-in-law, Olya A.Y. Thompson;, son-in-law Richard E. Riegel III;, and six grandchildren.