Big Man on Campus

By Hannah Wallace March 31, 2005

Larry Thompson joined the Ringling School of Art and Design as president in 1999.

"After I graduated from law school at Ohio State University in 1976, I was hired by a large Columbus law firm that operated as special counsel for the university. I did a lot of work for the university, ranging from real estate transactions to litigation, students' rights and faculty issues. I enjoyed the work and thought quite frankly I would always be there.

"Then in 1981 a new president of OSU was hired, Ed Jennings, who now lives in Bradenton, by the way. He asked me to take a six-month leave of absence to help him with some reorganization issues. That six-month leave of absence turned into seven years.

"As special assistant to the president, I did management trouble shooting. One year, for example, I oversaw the athletic department. For about three years I oversaw the public radio and television stations. We were trying to make a decision whether to retain them within the university or spin them off as a separate entity; ultimately they remained within the university, but I helped to align them more with the academic programs. Another unit that reported to me for four or five years was affirmative action and also the ombudsman's office. And toward the end of my tenure the president had an initiative to start a research park, and I led that effort, too.

"The job moved me from one of more narrow legal skills to nonprofit management skills, with very diverse kinds of experiences that allowed for interaction with a whole host of people: faculty, staff, students, coaches, alumni. (I also helped form the separate nonprofit OSU Foundation.) It was a very, very dynamic time for the university and a very exciting time to be there.

"I left because an executive search firm recruited me to be the executive director of the then very fledgling Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but that's a story for another time."

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