From Ohio History Central
The photograph was taken while Thompson was president of Miami University.
William Oxley Thompson was born in Cambridge, Ohio, on November 5, 1855. In 1878, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio, and a master's degree from the same institution in 1881. He then enrolled in the Western Theological Seminary in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania.
In 1882, Thompson moved to Odebolt, Iowa, where he served as a Presbyterian home missionary and pastor. In 1885, he moved to Longmont, Colorado, where he became the pastor of another Presbyterian Church. From 1885 to 1889, Thompson also served as the president of nearby Longmont College. He continued to pastor the Longmont church until 1891, when he returned to Muskingum College to receive a doctorate of divinity degree.
In 1891, Thompson became the president of Miami University in Ohio. He continued in this position until 1899, when he was appointed the president of The Ohio State University. Thompson served as president of the university for the next twenty-six years, having a significant impact on the institution. Thompson was influenced by Progressivism. He believed that education was more than strengthening the minds of students—it was also about affecting the way that students lived their lives. He believed in the importance of education, and encouraged Ohio to improve its educational system. During his years at Ohio State, the university created a College of Education to provide better training for teachers. The institution grew dramatically during Thompson's years as president. In 1899, student enrollment was approximately one thousand. By the time of his retirement in 1925, approximately fourteen thousand students were enrolled. Under Thompson's leadership, Ohio Stadium was built as well.
During World War I, Thompson served the state of Ohio in another capacity. Governor James M. Cox appointed Thompson to the Ohio Branch of the Council of National Defense. This group provided the governor with advice about how to mobilize the state for war.
Thompson died in Columbus, Ohio, on December 9, 1933. The main library at The Ohio State University still bears Thompson's name, and a statue of his likeness stands in front of the building.