Tompson, longtime math professor, passes away at age 86

1/22/2007 8:00:00 AM

Robert Tompson, a longtime University math professor who led the development of the first computer science curriculum on campus, passed away on Jan. 6 in Reno following complications from pneumonia. Tompson was 86.

Tompson, a native of Adrian, Mich., taught at the University from 1956-91, including 10 years as chairman of the mathematics department. In addition to his leadership role in establishing the computer science curriculum which later became the Department of Computer Science, Tompson was also credited with playing an instrumental role in the formation of The Desert Research Institute. In 1967-68, Tompson taught in India as part of a United States and Indian exchange program.

"He was a gentle and thoughtful man, dedicated to the health welfare of his family and to the success and future of his students," said Tompson's son, Andrew, of San Ramon, Calif. "He was a fan of track and field, tennis, golf and football. He often volunteered at University track meets. He absolutely loved swimming in the cold and wavy waters of Lake Tahoe, where he spent summer vacations for more than 30 years."

Andrew Tompson added that his father was a lover of great San Francisco journalists such as Charles McCabe, Herb Caen, Art Hoppe and Stanton Delaplane.

"And, he was always up for hitting a bucket of balls at the driving range or exploring some dusty Nevada back road," Andrew Tompson said.

Tompson earned a degree in chemistry in 1942 from Adrian College in Adrian, Mich. World War II interrupted graduate studies at the University of Michigan. He joined the Navy and was trained at Princeton University and MIT on the operation, installation and maintenance of fire control radar systems for naval vessels. Following World War II, Tompson came to Reno and obtained his master's degree in mathematics from the University of Nevada. He married wife Mary in Portland, Ore., in 1947 and earned his Ph.D. in mathematics in 1953 from Brown University in Providence, R.I.

Following work at Bell Telephone Laboratories in New Jersey and time at Florida State University on the mathematics faculty, he came to Nevada to teach in 1956.

In addition to his son, Tompson is survived by his wife, Mary, of Reno, and granddaughter, Madeline, of San Ramon.

For those interested, donations can be sent "In memory of Robert Thompson" c/o the Alzheimer's Association of Northern California and Northern Nevada, 2065 W. El Camino Real, Suite C, Mountain View, CA 94040.


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