Russell Irvin Thompson (1898-1957)

Russell Irvin Thompson  (1898-1957)

Russell Thompson was born in Reading, Pennsylvania on December 29, 1898, the son and grandson of physicians, which may account for his undergraduate nickname, "Doc." He attended Reading High School and entered Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania with the class of 1920. As an undergraduate he was a member of Belles Lettres Literary Society and Kappa Sigma fraternity, served as a cabinet officer in the Y.M.C.A., and was editor-in-chief of the 1919/1920 Microcosm.

After graduation he taught Greek at the Williamsport Seminary before going on to study education and psychology at Yale. While there he was director of the Wesley Settlement House of the Methodist Episcopal Church in New Haven between 1926 and 1928 before earning his Ph.D. in 1932.

He returned to his alma mater for the 1928 fall term to teach in his two doctoral subjects. He was soon promoted to associate professor and helped to develop the teaching of psychology and education at the College during the 1930s. In 1941,when Professor Wilbur Norcross died suddenly, Thompson became full professor, the Richard V.C. Watkins Chair of Psychology and Education, and head of the department.

Thompson served as registrar from 1935 until 1942. He took the post of sophomore class dean in 1941, and in 1947 was appointed dean of the College under President William Edel. Feeling a strong attachment to his alma mater, he submitted to President Fred Corson in 1944 a progressive and extensive sketch for a "not too distant Dickinson College." Unfortunately, he was stricken with illness and by March 1950 was virtually incapacitated. He was requested to retire in June 1954 and was awarded dean emeritus status.

Thompson married Ethel Wright in 1923. They lived for many years at LeTort Farm at Bonny Brook, near Carlisle. The couple had no children. Thompson's affliction with a series of brain tumors continued to require both surgery and painful endurance, and in October 1957, after two final operations, he died in a Philadelphia hospital at the age of 58. The chair of the dean of the College was named in his honor.

Author of Post: 
Dickinson College Archives
Date of Post: 
College Relationship: 
Alumnus/Alumna Class Year: 
Faculty - Years of Service: