In Memory

Samuel Thompson

Samuel B. Thompson passed away at home surrounded by his loving family on June 14, 2017 after a brief battle with cancer. He was born in Wheeling, WV on June 7, 1940, the son of Samuel and Ann Thompson. He Graduated from Triadelphia HS in 1958 and then enlisted in the Air Force where he had a distinguished 24-year career. The AF sponsored him through both a BS and MS degree in Physics & Mathematics at the University of Colorado. He graduated with honors and was then assigned a position at the Rocket Propulsion Laboratory at Edwards AFB in California. This was followed by a faculty position at the Air Force Academy. USAFA then sponsored his return to University of Colorado for a PhD in Math Education. After graduating he returned to teaching at USAFA for 8 years, rising to the rank of Lt Col. Samuel loved Colorado and built his present home during this period. 

He was reassigned to Germany which began a new phase of his life living abroad. He acquired rich experiences in culture and history and formed treasured friendships. He retired from the AF in Germany at which time he joined the University of Maryland European Division as their Math and Science Coordinator. Dr. Thompson had a wonderful time innovating to improve mathematics and science learning in the University of Maryland's programs in Europe and Asia and fostering a spirit of inquiry about teaching in all disciplines. He stayed abroad 15 years, became fluent in German and built a home in the quaint German village of Kollweiler. In 1997 he accepted a position at Indiana University in faculty scholastic development and finally as Assistant to the Dean of Faculties focusing on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Program for the university's academic community. While at IU he met Linda Harlan, who would become his wife and companion for the rest of his life. Linda and Samuel divided their time between the Kollweiler home in Germany and the home in Colorado Springs until recently. 

Samuel will always be remembered as an accomplished, gracious and adventurous soul who lived his life as he believed. He loved backpacking, biking, skiing, sailing, cooking and most of all sharing all of it with his friends and family.

He is survived by his wife Linda, two daughters, three grandchildren and three great grandchildren. In addition, he is survived by his dear friend and brother Douglas Thompson and wife Myra of Hampton, Va.,and another brother Gordon Thompson of Wheeling, W. Va. Linda's 2 daughters and grandchildren, along with her brother John and his wife Shirley considered Samuel to be a member of their families and will miss him greatly. 

He was a devoted member of Grace & St. Stephen's Episcopal Church located at 601 N. Tejon Street in Colorado Springs. Family and friends are invited to his funeral service which will be held on Saturday, July 1 at 10 AM. All are invited to a reception at the church following the service. 

In lieu of flowers you may give a memorial in Samuel's name to the Grace Episcopal Church Hospitality Fund or to the Sierra Club.


Published in The Gazette on June 25, 2017

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07/18/17 02:15 PM #1    

Edward Davis

I was sorry to see that our dear friend has passed on.  It is unfortunate that I was not able to see Sam after he left for Indiana and his new life in the States.  I knew him when I was Area Director/North in Korea and later when I became Area Director on Okinawa.  Sam's interest and zeal on the subject of faculty development and student learning was infectious.  His seminars and retreats on the subject  were memorable and valuable to the UMUC Asian Division faculty.  He was always positive about life and the educational process and he became a respected colleague in the UMUC Asian Division in the 1990s.  It is comforting to know that his life was accomplished and joyful after departing the Asian Division.  I will always value my time with him and my memories of his creative presentations on how teachers can improve what they do in the classroom.  He was effective, a gentleman and a scholar.

01/05/18 01:17 PM #2    

Penelope Roberts

My memory may be faulty, but I believe Sam agreed to be Santa one year.  Dressed in a red suit, he sat in the library and took gift requests from children and adults alike.  If I am correct, then I have a lovely photo of Sam with a 7 year old Adriano on his lap.

This event was a strong contributor to Adriano’s lifelong belief in Santa...after all, they have met!

Thanks Sam!


03/30/20 11:59 PM #3    

Joshua Mackles

I first "met" Sam Thompson on a late night phone call. Late night for me, probably mid morning for him. I was living in San Francisco at the time, teaching Math at SF State and USF, while Sam was in Heidelberg, running the math department and serving as an area director. Several months before I had received his phone call, I had applied to teach with Maryland through an ad in the Journal of Higher Education. Those were the days when the Maryland overseas division was legendary among stateside professors, a place where we could go and teach in our field ... in English ... for a year, earn a lot of money, and then return to our regular teaching gig.

It was sometime after midnight when I picked up the phone. The first thing Sam said, after introducing himself, was to ask why I had never followed up my application. I explained I had received a letter from Maryland stating there was no need for math teachers in Europe and would I be interested in Asia. Having my heart set on Europe, I declined, thinking that was that. Sam replied something to the effect that "those people are idiots" and would I be interested in coming to Germany to teach. Well, from that moment I knew that Sam was a man I wanted to teach for. Two months later I arrived in Germany and finally met Sam in person. 

What struck me most about Sam was his insistence on maintaining standards. (Unlike today's pathetic the student as customer idea of education.) All of the talented profs Sam had collected received Sam's self written guidelines on what he expected of his teachers. (Sadly, I no longer have a copy.) From those guidelines I still have not forgotten this: If a student only receives a C in your class you should privately recommend to the student that they retake the class. Ha. Can you imagine that in today's education culture? That to me was Sam at his best. 

Early in my career with Maryland, during a weekend long math meeting at Heidelberg, the theme of which was excellence in math teaching, Sam honored me by asking me to teach a mock math lesson in front of an acutual group of Maryland students and the entire math faculty, which at that time consisted of well over 100 teachers. Three teachers in all were selected, Sam choosing himself for one of the three slots. Never lacking in confidence, I thought I did pretty well, or did, until the master got up and taught the students. In watching him perform, because he was a gifted performer as well as teacher, I finally got to see the man who wrote the guidelines for the entire math department put his words into action. And it was a masterful performance. 

I may have lost touch with Sam after he moved to the Asian division, but I never forgot him, the man who gave me my start in the overseas division, the man who believed teaching was a calling, the man who believed that anyone could learn math, but not without hard work and the guidance of a good teacher. I feel honored that I had the opportunity to know and work with him. Belatedly, RIP.


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