Tommy B. Thompson, Colorado State University Faculty Emeritus, has been honored as the 2021 Warner College of Natural Resources Outstanding Emeritus Faculty member, recognizing his extraordinary contributions throughout a 40-year tenure in higher education.
An inspirational educator, teaching at CSU for over two decades, Thompson mentored an impressive cadre of 100 graduate students over his career, many of whom went on to extraordinary influence and leadership in global economic geology and mine exploration professions.
Thompson is still renowned among the world’s premier experts in mine geology. Throughout his teaching career, he maintained an active role in industry and professional associations, with professional roles stretching from northern Canada to Argentinian Patagonia.
His close connection to industry, its needs and opportunities, was vital to his students’ practical education and to the experiences and networks they were able to build while students. A former student supporting Thompson’s nomination reflected on his enthusiasm and dedication while bringing a breadth of real-world experience into the classroom.
And his practical focus paid great dividends to his young mentees. Former students now comprise CEOs and Chief Geologists of major exploration companies, leaders in national energy research, influential geology educators, entrepreneurs and successful consultants.
Despite his maintaining a busy professional career while teaching, Thompson remained a remarkably available mentor. Another nominator mentioned, “It wasn’t just the content of his courses that made Tommy an influential professor, Tommy was also an accessible professor, frequently in his office with the door open. He was always available for conversation and guidance.”
“Not only was the Dr. Thompson curriculum valuable to understand, but also the work ethic, organizational skills, professional writing skills and professional business attitude conveyed by his teaching style made my education immediately applicable to the real world,” wrote another.
Though his academic career has concluded, Thompson remains deeply invested in the future of economic geology programs at universities, where he hopes students will be given a practical education to address current and future industry needs.
“I was pleased to learn that the [CSU Geosciences] Department is committed to help curtail what has become a broad trend in U.S. higher education – allowing economic geology programs to dissolve,” said Thompson. Accordingly, he has been deeply engaged with CSU Geosciences in recent years, as it works to invigorate a program mirroring his practical, applied focus that proved so successful in advancing students’ careers and industry innovations.
Through its aspired establishment of the “Tommy B. Thompson Economic Geology Legacy” program, Colorado State’s Department of Geosciences intends to carry its past into its present and future, as the nation’s higher education destination for students desiring a rigorous applied curriculum in this important industry.