In Memoriam: Dr. William L. Thompson, Former Michigan Audubon President

December 14, 2016
Diane Huhn
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Dr. William L. Thompson

Dr. Thompson in the field, circa 1960.

On November 27th, Dr. William L. Thompson, Wayne State University Professor Emeritus of Biological Sciences, and former President of the Michigan Audubon Society and Editor of the Jack Pine Warbler, passed away at home in Livonia, MI.

William Lay Thompson was born on February 16, 1930, in Austin, Texas. He was the son of Dora (Lay) Thompson of Lockhart, Texas and William Henry Thompson of Brownwood, Texas. He attended the Austin public schools. After graduating from Austin High School he went to the University of Texas in Austin. As a freshman he was elected to the Phi Eta Sigma Fraternity, an honorary society. Subsequently, he received his Bachelor’s degree with a major in zoology and a minor in botany and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He was also elected to the Alpha Sigma  Chapter of the Phi Sigma Biological Society. He continued at the University of Texas in Austin for a Master’s degree in zoology. This was followed by a Doctorate in zoology at the University of California in Berkeley.

From 1955 to 1957 he served in the United States Army Chemical Corps, stationed in Washington D.C.

In 1958 he was married to Retta Catherine Maninger in Berkeley, California. From their marriage, there were three children: Stephen Patrick, Catherine Irene, and Mark Douglas. His family also included six grandchildren: Brent Edward and Cody Aaron Rossler. Deborah Ann and Timothy Earl Thompson, and Julian Anthony and Maya Catherine Thompson.

In 1959, Dr. Thompson was engaged to teach at Wayne State University, in Detroit, Michigan, in the Department of Biology. His teaching assignment included courses in general biology, vertebrate physiology, anatomy and physiology for nurses, comparative anatomy, vertebrate natural history, ornithology, mammalogy, and biogeography. In the University’s Adult Education Program, he taught Birds of Michigan, and at the Detroit Zoo, classes on Penguins, and Cats. When he was a student, and as a professor, he was engaged in field work which took him to Texas, California, Michigan, Nebraska, and Utah, as well as Alaska and Mexico. While at Wayne State, Dr. Thompson was President of the Wayne State chapter of Phi Beta Kappa and later, the secretary. He was also elected as a Member of AOU (The American Ornithologists’ Union) and AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) in which he was elected a Fellow. He retired from Wayne State in 1993 as Professor Emeritus.

Dr. Thompson’s other activities included membership in the Detroit Audubon Society, in which he served a term as vice president and also the Michigan Audubon Society, in which he served as president for several years. He carried out his interest in music by singing in several church and community choirs. He also participated in several opera productions as a chorus member in college and in a local opera company in Washington D.C. He also served as a super (non-singing stage character) for the Metropolitan Opera when it toured in Detroit. Recreational reading was a favorite activity. He read extensively on a wide variety of topics.

Services will be held on Wednesday, December 28th at 11:00 am at Rosedale Gardens Presbyterian Church, 9601 Hubbard Ave, Livonia, MI 48150.