About Larry Thompson
Larry Thompson taught English at Ricks/BYU-Idaho for 36 years, from 1968 to 2004. When asked about his academic achievement, Larry said, “The thrust of my academic life is about a passion to learn, to be an eternal learner, and to manage with a very ordinary mind.”
Larry says he nearly flunked out of high school his senior year before entering Palomar Junior College, in California. There, he says, he “stumbled, got [his] sea legs, and ended up falling in love with learning.” From there he went to BYU and “had some good academic moments … and some very mediocre ones.” He says at that time he didn’t know “how to study thoroughly.”
At the end of his junior year, he went on a 2 ½ year mission to Germany. Larry says, “That changed my life. I learned how to memorize hundreds of words and master German grammar. And I loved it.” Larry returned and graduated in 1965 from BYU. He remained there for an MA degree, which he got in 1967.
Then he attended the University of Oregon, where he “worked [his] guts out, held on for dear life, and finished [his] course work.” He graduated with a PhD in 1973. Of the experience, Larry said, “It was as if the Lord said, ‘If you really want this, we can make it happen.’”
In the process of working on his PhD, Larry “promised the Lord [that he] would go on being an eternal learner.” In late 2009, five years after his retirement, Larry said, “And I will be. I am in two study groups and have reread Shakespeare's entire works, and much of Milton, Melville, Thoreau, and Hawthorne.”
Larry also said, “I love the smell of printer's ink, the texture of paper, the endless meanings of words and how they change both the head and the heart.”
One BYU-I faculty member shared this recollection of working with Larry:
Often I would encounter Larry in the hallway, and he would ask, “What are you reading?” I would tell him, and then ask him the same question. He was always reading something new, was always learning and encountering the world afresh.
That same professor had this concluding remark about Larry Thompson:
Larry was a man of wisdom and restraint. A man of few words, but all of those words worth listening to. Larry is a living example that faith and learning can be combined within the same soul without the loss of testimony in the gospel, and without a compromise to the standards of real academics.
Previous Larry Thompson Award Winners: