Trailblazing professor to be honored for service to students, community

February 17, 2014 | Events, Features, UToday, Natural Sciences and Mathematics
By Cynthia Nowak

When the University unveils the Dr. Lancelot C.A. Thompson Meeting Room in Student Union Room 2592 Wednesday, Feb. 19, the designating sign won’t be large enough to include the many reasons for the honor.

One reason is the students. Thompson, professor emeritus of chemistry and 55-year UT veteran, was one of the first four recipients of the institution’s Outstanding Teacher Award, an honor based on student nominations.



His passion, then and now, is helping students — so much so that Thompson was dismayed when then-UT President William Carlson offered the vice presidency for student affairs in 1968.

“I told him, ‘I don’t think so,’” Thompson recalled. “I told him that I had no experience as an administrator.

“He told me, ‘I don’t need one; I need someone who can get along with faculty and students.’ So I said, OK, as long as I could still teach.”

Thompson held the position for 22 years, also serving as assistant dean for undergraduate study in the College of Arts and Sciences, and dean of student services. He said, “I think a lot of people don’t realize that the first job of an administrator is being able to connect with all kinds of people, not just other administrators.”

Thompson has long served as a mentor to many students, particularly student-athletes. A native of Jamaica, Thompson came to the United States on a track scholarship.

“Over the years, Lance has been an adviser, a mentor and, most of all, a friend to many of our student-athletes. The wisdom and guidance Lance provides plays an important role in their lives,” said Mike O’Brien, UT vice president and athletic director.

To help inspire the next generation of college students, Thompson also continues to help organize the annual Aspiring Minorities Youth Conference.

“Lance’s mark on The University of Toledo and in particular on the Division of Student Affairs is immeasurable,” said Dr. Kaye Patten Wallace, senior vice president for the student experience. “He’s a true student services professional who gave us a blueprint for service and optimism and dedication.”

Then there’s the community service. Thompson’s includes serving on the executive committee of the Bridge Inc., the Toledo Health Planning Association Board, the Toledo Development Committee, and the board of trustees of the Neighborhood Health Association. In addition, he served on the Toledo Labor Management Citizens Committee, the board of trustees for the Better Business Bureau, Connecting Point, and the board of directors of the American Red Cross. A member of Kiwanis International since 1971, he has served as president and remains active.

And back when UT was a municipal Toledo University, its fate hanging by a 2-mill levy presented to local voters in a 1959 special election, Thompson pounded the pavement for his school.

“It rained all day. I lost a suit and a pair of shoes working door to door in the black neighborhoods, getting people out to vote,” he said. The levy passed by a razor-thin margin of 144 votes: “If it hadn’t, there would not have been a University of Toledo in 1967.”

The multiplicity of reasons for honoring Thompson will come together Wednesday, Feb. 19, at 6:30 p.m. in Student Union Room 2592. Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to stop by for a short program and a reception with refreshments.

Just don’t place Thompson’s legacy in the past tense; he’s still primed for service. “Helping students is a part of me,” he said. “I will continue to do it until I’m six feet under.

“If anything is said about me, just let it be that I cared about people, especially students, so they had all the help available to them.”

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