Updated Tuesday, Sept. 16 at 10:50 p.m.
Marjorie Thompson ’74 PhD’79 P’02 P’07 P’09 P’12 P’14 P’16, associate dean of biological sciences, died Monday afternoon while on leave from the University this semester, said Katherine Smith, who was appointed interim associate dean of biological sciences Sept. 1.
“It’s going to be an extreme loss — a personal one for many students,” Smith told The Herald. “She was beloved by all.”
Thompson died at Home and Hospice Care of Rhode Island “surrounded by family and close friends,” wrote Dean of Medicine and Biological Sciences Jack Elias and Associate Dean of Biology Edward Hawrot in an email to the Division of Biology and Medicine Tuesday afternoon.
“Throughout her time here she remained committed to advancing the University in numerous and enduring ways,” President Christina Paxson wrote in a community-wide email Tuesday night.
In her post as associate dean, which she held since 1983, Thompson led the Biology Undergraduate Affairs Office, which oversees the undergraduate biology curriculum and advising system.
Thompson completed her undergraduate and graduate studies at Brown, receiving a bachelor of science in biochemistry in 1974 and a Ph.D. in biology in 1979, according to the Biology Undergraduate Affairs Office website.
She married husband Ian Thompson PhD’79 and had seven children, six of whom attended or currently attend the University.
Though Thompson was set to teach BIOL 3643: “Histology” this semester, her leave of absence prevented her from instructing the course, Smith said.
Last spring, Thompson led two sections of BIOL 0320: “Vertebrate Embryology,” according to Banner. Over her time at the University, she taught histology to medical students and embryology, biological illustration and scientific writing to undergraduates, Elias and Hawrot wrote.
In past summers, she offered an introductory biology course to high school participants in the Summer@Brown program, according to the Biology Undergraduate Affairs Office website.
She also participated in several committees tasked with evaluating the biology program, chairing the Biology Curriculum Committee and serving as a member of the Program in Biology Advisory Committee, according to the Biology Undergraduate Affairs Office website.
Thompson advised hundreds of students every academic year, including those pursuing independent research, Elias and Hawrot wrote in their email.
In her email, Paxson noted that Thompson mentored students with “boundless support and friendship.”
“My goal is to run this office just as she would, and to keep advising students just as she would,” Smith told The Herald.
Beyond the biology department, Thompson bolstered a number of groups focused on academic affairs. She was chair of the Academic Awards Committee and a member of the Senior Dean’s Council, the BioMedical Faculty Council and the College Curriculum Committee, according to the Biology Undergraduate Affairs Office website.
Additionally, Thompson helped found the Science Center and elect undergraduates to the Brown chapter of Sigma Xi, an international honor society for science and engineering.
As a dean, Thompson won several awards including the Barrett Hazeltine Senior Class Citation and the BioMed Dean’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and Advising, Elias and Hawrot wrote.
“A respected leader and valued colleague, she was always willing to share her advice and expertise,” Paxson wrote.
Outside of her University position, Thompson enjoyed pursuing her artistic passions. An avid songwriter, singer and acoustic guitarist, she released six albums and performed on radio and television programs including “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” according to her website.
Last year, Thompson went on tour, performing her music in North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio and Massachusetts.
She also started Cellular Fun, a business aiming to produce “biologically correct jewelry,” according to its website.
A funeral service will be held Thursday at 1 p.m. at Temple Emanu-El in Providence, Elias and Hawrot wrote. Students, faculty members and staff members are welcome to leave written condolences for Thompson’s family at the Office of Biology Undergraduate Education in Arnold Lab, they wrote.
For support, Brown community members can contact the offices of Counseling and Psychological Services, which can be reached at 401-863-3476, and Chaplains and Religious Life, which can be reached at 401-863-2344. The CAPS line is open on evenings and weekends, as is the University's administrator-on-call line, 401-863-3322.
Updated Tuesday, Sept. 16 at 10:50 p.m.