Thompson, William Oxley, 1855-1933

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WIlliam Oxley Thompson was born in Cambridge, Ohio on November 5, 1855. He received an A.B. in 1878 and a D.D. in 1891 from Muskingum College. On April 13, 1881, Thompson was licensed by the Presbytery of Zanesville at Dresden, Ohio. He served as a home missionary and pastor in Odebolt, Iowa from 1882 to 1885. From 1885 to 1889, Thompson served as President of Longmont College in Colorado. In 1891, the Miami University Board of Trustees named Thompson President of Miami University. During his tenure Thompson actively recruited students by touring southern Ohio, and he succeeded in doubling Miami enrollment during his first year. He took steps to discourage fraternity hazing, and in 1892, oversaw completion of Miami's first scientific laboratory building, Brice Hall. Under Thompson, Miami professionalized its M.A. degree by requiring both a period in residence and a specific course of study for candidates. Thompson also lobbied successfully for legislation supporting Ohio colleges. During his term, state aid to Miami was increased and an annual state subsidy begun. Thompson accepted the Presidency of Ohio State University in 1899 and remained there unitl 1925. In 1926, Thompson lobbied the Ohio Legislature to approve the Lybarger Bill, a measure that would have essentially stripped Miami of its liberal arts program, leaving it a normal school. The Bill was eventually defeated, largely due to the efforts of the Miami President Guy Potter Benton. After leaving Ohio State, Thompson served as the General Moderator for the Presbyterian Churches of America in 1926. He died on December 9, 1933.

From the guide to the William Oxley Thompson Collecion, 1891-1971, 1891-1899, (Miami University)

President of The Ohio State University (1899-1925) and ordained Presbyterian minister.

From the description of Sermons and addresses, 1916-1932. (Ohio State University Libraries). WorldCat record id: 24336701

Fifth and longest-serving president of The Ohio State University (1899-1925) and an ordained Presbyterian minister. Previously missionary and pastor, Odeboit, Iowa (1882-85); president, Longmont College, Colo. and pastor (1885-91); president, Miami University (1891-99). Active in the drafting and passage of the National Defense Act in 1915; chairman, Agricultural Commission to England and France (1918); appointed by President Woodrow Wilson as chairman of committee to settle anthracite coal strike (1920). Served 9 years on Columbus Board of Education; president, Columbus Centennial Celebration.

From the description of Papers, [ca. 1880]-1933. (Ohio State University Libraries). WorldCat record id: 24663888

Born in Cambridge, Ohio, in 1855, as the oldest of 10 children, William Oxley Thompson attended Muskingum College, leaving in the summers to work on a farm. He graduated in 1878 and earned a master's degree from Muskingum three years later. He attended Western Theological Seminary in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, and went on to become an ordained minister after graduating in 1882. He then spent three years as a pastor and missionary in Odebolt, Iowa. He moved to Longmont, Colorado, after the death of his wife in 1885 and turned to educational work at the college level. He became president of Synodical College of the Synod of Colorado and later returned to Ohio in 1891 to serve as president of Miami University. After eight years as Miami University's president, Thompson assumed the presidency of Ohio State University in 1899. At the time, Ohio State had a student body of only 1,200. Its campus was small (340 acres), and it was largely unknown outside of Ohio. When Thompson retired in 1925, Ohio State's campus covered more than 1,100 acres and it had a student population of 12,000 with 600 faculty. During the World War I, he was part of an agricultural commission that studied the wartime food supplies of France and England and gave speaking tours to farmers in the Northwest. Along with OSU alumnus Ralph Mershon, and OSU faculty members Col. George Converse and Prof. Edward Orton Jr., Thompson was responsible for drafting the "Ohio Plan," which outlined university civilian training programs. That plan became part of the 1916 National Defense Act, which established the Reserve Officers' Training Corps, or ROTC, as a national program. Thompson's first attempt to retire from the OSU presidency, in 1919, was resisted so vigorously by faculty, trustees and alumni that he withdrew his resignation. He resigned OSU's presidency in 1925 on his 70th birthday. The end of his tenure at Ohio State was not the end of Thompson's public life, however. A year later, in 1926, he was appointed general moderator of the Presbyterian churches of America, a position he held for one year. During the Great Depression, he was the president of a Columbus building and loan association, and in 1933 he accepted the position as chairman of the Columbus national recovery administration compliance board, which he resigned a few weeks before his death on December 9, 1933.

From the guide to the William Oxley Thompson Papers, 1899-1926, (The Ohio State University Archives.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn W. B. Hinsdale papers, 1893-1942, 1922-1938 Bentley Historical Library
creatorOf Thompson, William Oxley, 1855-1933. Correspondence, 1912-1913. Ohio State University Libraries
creatorOf William Oxley Thompson Papers, 1899-1926 The Ohio State University Archives.
creatorOf Hinsdale, W. B. (Wilbert B.), 1851-1944. W.B. Hinsdale papers, 1895-1934. Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Kendall, Frank H. Frank H. Kendall letter, 28 February 1906. The Filson Historical Society
creatorOf Thompson, William Oxley, 1855-1933. Sermons and addresses, 1916-1932. Ohio State University Libraries
referencedIn Alexander G. Ruthven Papers, 1901-1961, 1906-1951 Bentley Historical Library
creatorOf Hinsdale, W. B. (Wilbert B.), 1851-1944. W.B. Hinsdale papers, 1893-1942 (bulk 1922-1938). Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Mershon, Ralph Davenport, 1868-1952. Papers, [ca. 1890-ca. 1962]. Ohio State University Libraries
creatorOf Gladden, Washington, 1836-1918. Papers, 1847-1970. Library of Congress
creatorOf Bethany Home (Columbus, Ohio). Records. Ohio History Connection, Ohio Historical Society
referencedIn Claude Metford Thompson Manuscripts, c.1870-1900 Cardiff University Library Archive
creatorOf William Oxley Thompson Collecion, 1891-1971, 1891-1899 Miami University
creatorOf Thompson, William Oxley, 1855-1933. Papers, [ca. 1880]-1933. Ohio State University Libraries
referencedIn Meeker, Claude, 1861-1929. Letter, 1922 May 12, Columbus, Ohio [to] Mr. [Edwin] Markham, [Staten Island] / Claude Meeker. Wagner College, Horrmann Library
creatorOf Collicott, Jacob G., 1873-1937. Papers 1916-1937. Ohio History Connection, Ohio Historical Society
creatorOf Magruder, William Thomas, 1861-. Papers, 1889-1923. Ohio State University Libraries
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Arps, George F. (George Frederick), 1874-1939. person
associatedWith Association of American Agricultural Colleges and Experiment Stations. corporateBody
associatedWith Baker, Newton Diehl, 1871-1937. person
associatedWith Bellows, George, 1882-1925. person
associatedWith Bethany Home (Columbus, Ohio) corporateBody
associatedWith Bricker, Garland A. (Garland Armor), b. 1881. person
associatedWith Bryan, William Jennings, 1860-1925. person
associatedWith Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. corporateBody
associatedWith Claude Metford Thompson person
associatedWith Collicott, Jacob G., 1873-1937. person
associatedWith Cox, James M. (James Middleton), 1870-1957. person
associatedWith French, Thomas Ewing, 1871-1944. person
associatedWith Gladden, Washington, 1836-1918. person
associatedWith Hinsdale, W. B. (Wilbert B.), 1851-1944. person
associatedWith Hoover, Herbert, 1874-1964. person
associatedWith Kendall, Frank H. person
associatedWith Kettering, Charles Franklin, 1876-1958. person
associatedWith Magruder, William Thomas, 1861- person
associatedWith Malone, William R. person
associatedWith Meeker, Claude, 1861-1929. person
associatedWith Mendenhall, Thomas C. (Thomas Corwin), 1841-1924. person
associatedWith Meredith, Edwin T. (Edwin Thomas), 1876-1928. person
associatedWith Mershon, Ralph Davenport, 1868-1952. person
associatedWith National Education Association of the United States. corporateBody
correspondedWith Ohio State University corporateBody
associatedWith Orton, Edward, 1863-1932. person
associatedWith Presbyterian Church. corporateBody
associatedWith Ruthven, Alexander Grant, 1882- person
associatedWith Schlesinger, Arthur M. (Arthur Meier), 1888-1965. person
associatedWith Scott, Walter Quincy. person
associatedWith Vivian, Alfred, b. 1867. person
associatedWith Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924. person
associatedWith Young Men's Christian Associations of North America. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Ohio State University
Speeches, addresses, etc., American
Thompson, William Oxley, 1855-1933
Thompson, William Oxley


Birth 1855-11-05

Death 1933-12-09



Ark ID: w65m81kn

SNAC ID: 41994793