Brown University and the worlds of biology education, music, and art lost a dedicated and talented friend this week. Marjorie Thompson, associate dean of biology and an adjunct associate professor of biology at Brown, died Monday, Sept. 15, 2014, at Home and Hospice Care of Rhode Island at the age of 60.
Thompson was a more than 40-year member of the Brown University community. She earned her Sc..B in biochemistry in 1974 and Ph.D. in biology at Brown in 1979. Thompson also sent several children to Brown in the classes of 2002, 2007, 2009, 2012, 2015, and 2016.
Thompson taught courses in histology to medical students and embryology to undergraduates. Since 1983, when she began directing the Office of Biology Undergraduate Education, she was a leader for academic advising, programs, and resources for all biology undergraduates.
For her teaching and service to the University Thompson won several awards including two Barrett Hazeltine Citations and the BioMed Dean’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and Advising.
In a letter to the campus, Brown President Christina Paxson praised Thompson for “devoting herself to meeting the needs of students through academic and career counseling, mentorship, boundless support and friendship.”
Dr. Jack Elias, dean of medicine and biology at Brown, noted that Thompson was commonly known as “Dean T” to her students. “She personally advised hundreds of students yearly and touched the lives of each individually,” he and Edward Hawrot, associate dean of biology, wrote in a message announcing Thompson’s death.
An artistic talent
In addition to her work with students, Thompson touched many more lives through her artistic talents, which included not only biological illustration (and biologically inspired jewelry) and country blues guitar. Last year she toured from Georgia to Massachusetts and within the last decade played as many as 75 shows a year, according to the Brown Daily Herald.
Thompson started recording albums in 2003 and continued to release CDs through 2012. She also applied her teaching skills to her art, producing several DVDs to teach fingerstyle guitar playing.
As a teacher and adviser, as well as an artist, her commitment was to the audience.
“People don’t come to see the singing dean or the mother who writes songs,” she wrote on her website. “They come to hear — and I owe them — good music.”
Faculty, staff and students are welcome and encouraged to visit the Office of Biology Undergraduate Education in Arnold Lab today to remember Dean Thompson and offer written condolences to the Thompson family, Elias wrote. The University's Office of Chaplains and Religious Life (863-2344) and Psychological Services (863-3476) are available to offer support to members of the community.
The funeral will be Thursday, Sept. 18, from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. at Temple Emanu-El, 99 Taft Avenue. The family will also sit Shiva, where all friends are welcome to visit, at 91 Irving Ave. from noon to 4 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 19, and Sunday, Sept. 21. In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made in Thompson’s honor to Home and Hospice Care of Rhode Island, 1085 North Main St., Providence RI 02904.