Making a difference in the lives of people at the Thompson Center for Autism & Neurodevelopment at the University of Missouri

Board addition: Dr. Sonny Bal

At the Thompson Foundation board meeting last week, Dr. Sonny Bal was elected to the board of directors. Dr. Bal is CEO & President of SINTX Technologies, an original equipment manufacturing (OEM) ceramics company headquartered in Salt Lake City that develops and commercializes silicon nitride ceramics for medical and non-medical applications. Dr. Bal was an MU professor of Orthopaedic Surgery from 1999-2017 and served as an adjunct professor of Material Sciences at Missouri S&T. He has researched and published extensively in ceramic science and serves on the editorial boards of peer-refereed journals. He is also a licensed attorney who co-founded the Bal Brenner law firm in North Carolina.

In addition to his JD from Mizzou, he holds a BS in Genetics from UC Davis, an MD from Cornell University, an MBA from Northwestern University, and a PhD in Materials Engineering from the Kyoto Institute of Technology. He received fellowship training in joint replacement surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard University, and he did residencies at UC San Francisco and UMKC. He met his spouse, Dana Bal, M.D., when she was in medical school at UMKC. The Bal family calls Columbia home.

Welcome, Dr. Bal!

801 600 Thompson Foundation for Autism & Neurodevelopment

Myles Hinkel

Executive Director

Myles Hinkel began as Executive Director in June 2020. Myles leads the foundation’s three-pillar mission; fundraising, awareness, and advancing public policy. Prior to this, Myles was Director of Advancement for Gift Planning & Regional covering the West Coast for The University of Missouri. This was Myles’ second time with MU Advancement. He previously worked in the College of Arts & Science before taking advancement positions at Columbia College and the Missouri United Methodist Foundation. Myles, his wife Lora, and their two boys have been involved in the Thompson Center and the Thompson Foundation since their inceptions.

Katie Lynn

Director of Donor Relations

Katie Lynn oversees donor stewardship and marketing for the Thompson Foundation for Autism & Neurodevelopment. Prior to joining the Thompson Foundation in 2020, she worked for Major League Baseball’s nonprofit, the Baseball Assistance Team. Originally from Quincy, Illinois, Katie is a graduate of Tulane University and has also lived in Louisiana, Florida, New York, and now Missouri. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, singing, and playing violin.

Melissa Eston

Office Manager

Melissa Eston began her role as Office Manager in August of 2022. In her role, Melissa receives and processes donations, assists in event planning, and manages accounts receivable and payable. Melissa most recently worked in Healthcare Advancement at the University of Missouri. Prior to that, she worked as a Senior Strategic Communications associate in University Relations at the University of Missouri System. Her first experience working with non-profits was at Columbia College, where she served as a Coordinator for the Advancement division. Melissa is a Columbia College graduate with a BA in History. She lives with her husband, Chris, in Columbia. Melissa’s favorite part of working at the Thompson Foundation is seeing the tangible, positive impact its advocacy work has on the Thompson Center and the families it serves.


Sam Hayes

Director of Development

Sam Hayes joined the Thompson Foundation in December of 2023. During his previous six years with the University of Missouri, Sam raised over $6 million in philanthropic support for many areas across campus, including healthcare, the School of Journalism, Marching Mizzou, campus-wide scholarships, and the College of Arts & Science. Sam has a Bachelor’s in Parks and Recreation from Mizzou. Sam is honored to serve the Thompson Foundation, which has helped many people. He lives in Columbia, where he likes to hike with his wife, Samantha, their two sons, John and Teddy, and their chihuahua Louie.