Q&A with Dr. Jean Thompson

Published 5:57 pm Friday, August 20, 2010

Dr. Jean Thompson is about to wrap up 51 and 1/2 years in education, including 17 spent locally at LBW Community College. The Luverne native is the mother of one son, Jim. He and wife Nancy are parents to Taylor and Mandy, Thompson’s much-loved granddaughters. A member of the Greenville City Council, she is also active in the Greenville Rotary Club, the Butler County Historical and Genealogical Society, Sasanqua Garden Club, First United Methodist Church and the Greenville Area Arts Council. An ardent Auburn fan, she loves to travel and considers herself a lifelong learner.

Q: You are a Greenville girl now, but you have strong roots in Crenshaw County, right?

A: Oh, yes, I was born, reared and educated in Luverne. My parents and grandparents are all from Luverne. I left when I was 17 to go to Troy.

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Q: What was the catalyst for you deciding to make your career in education?

A: I always loved going to school and I had some wonderful teachers. I remember my 8th and 9th grade English teacher. She gave me an excellent foundation. And I loved my history teacher. I actually majored in it, along with English, but I only taught history one semester. When I was student teaching at Lanier, only an English classroom was available. I would have had to delay my practice teaching in history. (smiles) So from that day forward, I taught English. It’s amazing how your career path will change just because of a decision like that.

Q: You started your career in education in Georgia. Tell me about that, and how you ended up back here in south Alabama.

A: I taught in DeKalb County, which also owned DeKalb College at that time. Today it is the third largest education system in the state of Georgia. DeKalb had a very progressive school system. I ended up as district dean of students for three campuses . . . but after 33 years, I was ready to leave. I lived seven miles from the campus, and it took me an entire hour to get to work. I applied for the LBW position two weeks prior to its closing. I was chosen as the number one candidate out of 60-I was totally flabbergasted when I got the job.

Q: Now you are about to retire from LBW. Thoughts on this retirement and your plans for the future?

A: Our school is really on an uphill swing, so I feel as if it’s a positive way to go out into retirement. I am sure I made a difference in DeKalb, but I’ve made a greater difference here, I believe. You get so close to your students; they become your friends. I saw one of my former students at the beauty shop the other day. I had been going through my papers and told her I had just re-read her research paper from 1998. (laughs) She couldn’t believe I still had it!

As for retirement, well, I have four trips planned: Branson, Missouri, New England to see the fall colors, Williamsburg at Christmas and a Senior Circle trip to Ireland. I’ve wanted to go to Ireland forever! And I plan to visit with my granddaughters, get involved in some of their activities.

Q: If you could capture your educational philosophy in a nutshell, what would it be?

A: I can’t recall the exact quote, but Thomas Wolfe said education gives every person an opportunity . . . I know it changed my station in life. It can bring things you never even envisioned in your career and life paths. Education changes the world.

Q: Favorite authors?

A: Shakespeare, of course; he always provides me with quotes. William Faulkner-I have read all 37 of his works-it’s the man himself that fascinates me the most. He is the most self-actualized person I have ever read about. Hemingway, Steinbeck, Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty and Harper Lee-I’ve seen To Kill a Mockingbird at ASF, in Monroeville and at Greenville High. Margaret Mitchell and Lewis Grizzard. I miss Lewis. I have five books autographed by him. He was just as good a speaker as he was a writer, and that’s not always the case. I also love Burns and Milton, whose work is so much like the Bible, and yet he was not a religious man.

Q: You are also a supporter of the Butler County Humane Society’s fundraisers. I take it you are an animal lover?

A: Yes. Big time. I have a black toy poodle, Noel, my third poodle. And my cats, Edgar Allan Poe and Mr. Mark Twain, named after two more of my favorite authors. Noel has a heart murmur . . . I’ve been told she probably won’t live more than a couple more years. So I am going to make her life the best I can make it. My animals are very well cared for. And they give back so much to me.

Q: Parting thoughts?

A: My life has been a wonderful journey so far. There is very, very little of it I would consider changing. I appreciate all my educational experiences as both a student and a teacher.

Interview conducted by Angie Long