William Oxley Thompson
Stories of Guernsey county by Wm. Wolfe Page 792-793
William Oxley Thompson
In the Peter’s Creek school district of Adams township William Oxley Thompson, son of David G. and Agnes M. (Oxley) Thompson, was born on November 5, 1855. The father was a veteran of the Civil War; the mother was a woman of strong character and much intelligence.
Moves to Cambridge.—At the time William O. was born David G. Thompson was engaged in farming, but being a shoemaker, he soon after moved to Cambridge to work at his trade. Here William O. started to school, his mother being his first teacher. To assist in the support of the family she taught the primary room of the Cambridge schools, then located in the old Masonic building on North Seventh street.
There eventually came to be ten children in the family, of which William O. was the oldest. Eager for a higher education, he entered Muskingum College in 1870. In 1878 he graduated as the honor member of his class. He worked his way through school in the truest sense of that oft used expression. Not only could the family not help him, but he helped support the family at the same time he was struggling for an education. He gave eight years to the completion of a college course that he easily could have finished in four.
Taught in Oxford Township.—During his eight years of college he would drop out frequently to earn money by which to continue his studies. He worked as a farm hand at eight dollars a month, and he taught in rural schools. One of the schools in which he taught was known as “No 4” in Oxford township, a mile southwest of Fairview. Forty years afterwards he visited this little school and donated to it a part of his personal library. In his honor the name of the school was changed to “Thompson.” The schools of the township were later consolidated and this building was removed.
President of Ohio State University.— After graduating from Muskingum College Thompson entered the Western Theological Seminary (a Presbyterian school) at Allegheny, Pennsylvania, from which he graduated in 1882. After preaching a few years at Odebolt, Iowa, and Longmont, Colorado, he came to Oxford, Ohio, as president of Miami University. Eight years later (1899) he was chosen president of Ohio State University at Columbus. Here he served until 1925, when he retired of his own accord. During his administration this institution grew from an enrollment of 1,200 to 12,000 students, thus becoming one of the greatest universities in America.
Dr. William O. Thompson was a leader in the field of education. In 1927 he was chosen Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States. By the chief executives of both Ohio and the United States he was appointed a number of times to serve on important commissions. His counsel was sought in matters of school, church and state. The universal regard in which he was held was outstanding. Contributing to this were several characteristics of the man.
A Natural Leader.—Dr. Thompson was a natural leader. He displayed a boundless energy throughout his entire life. He took an active part in many movements, aside from his regular work, that to him seemed designed for the betterment of society. Possessed of a pleasing voice, and sympathetic and frank in conversation, he became a friend to all whose privilege it was to meet him. His death occurred on December 9, 1933.