SAMUEL R. THOMPSON - NINTH PRINCIPAL, 1868-1871
The first Principal of the new West Virginia Normal School at Marshall College was a Pennsylvanian, Samuel R. Thompson, who was hired on May 14, 1868, at $1,500 per year. The first session of the school opened on June 15, 1868, with twenty-five students. By the 1869-1870 school year Thompson had increased the school’s enrollment to 148. In 1870 Marshall College, as a state institution, had its first graduating class of four "normal training course" students. Normal schools could only offer certificates or diplomas for teachers, but they were not authorized to grant bachelor degrees. Although it retained its historic title of Marshall College, it was a college in name only, and it would be decades before it was permitted to issue bachelor degrees commensurate with its name.
Thompson’s tenure lasted until 1871, when he resigned. Benjamin Thackston described the events leading up to his resignation: "In the previous year there had been a political upheaval in the state. Hon. John J. Jacob, a democrat, had been elected governor, and Judge Charles S. Lewis, a democrat had been elected state superintendent of free schools, and what was known as the "Flick Amendment" had carried. Prof. Thompson, finding himself of the opposite political persuasion from ‘the powers that be,’ offered his resignation to the Board of Regents, which was accepted."
Thompson was born on April 17, 1833, in South Shenango County, Pennsylvania. He was the son of William and Mary Thompson. He entered Westminster College in 1856 and graduated in 1863, having taken a hiatus in his studies in order to complete an unexpired term as the Superintendent of Schools of Crawford County, Pennsylvania. He was reelected as Superintendent, serving until 1865, when he took a position at Edinboro State Normal School, resigning in 1867. In 1868 he accepted the position of Principal of Marshall College, serving until 1871. He relocated in Nebraska, becoming the first Principal of the State University of Nebraska’s Agricultural College from 1871 until 1877. From 1877 to 1881 he was the Nebraska State Superintendent of Schools, when he returned the Nebraska University, serving on its faculty until 1884. From there he became a professor of physics at Westminster College, his alma mater, in 1884. He remained there until his death on October 28, 1896, at the age of sixty-three.
A colleague described him in his later life: "Personally Professor Thompson was tall of pleasant manner and with a scholarly bearing. In his later years his white hair and full beard of almost snowy whiteness gave him a venerable look A kindly face from which looked out the clear soft eyes which betokened the sympathetic friend complete the picture of the man."
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