Vinton Thompson grew up in a small farming town in Southern New Jersey, where his family grew cranberries and blueberries in the Pine Barrens. He attended public schools and entered Harvard on a Philadelphia Bulletin newsboy scholarship in 1965. At Harvard he majored in biology, wrote a senior thesis under the well-known scientist Stephen Jay Gould, and graduated with honors in June 1969.
In September 1969 Dr. Thompson moved to Chicago to pursue graduate studies in evolutionary biology at the University of Chicago, where he was awarded a full fellowship. He carried out investigations in experimental fruit fly population genetics and wrote a doctoral thesis on the relationship between genetic recombination (sexual reproduction at the chromosome level) and the rate of response to selection. At the same time he began field studies that developed into a lifelong interest in the ecology and evolution of a unique group of insects called spittlebugs. He received his Ph.D. in Evolutionary Biology in December 1974.
While a graduate student, Dr. Thompson worked for several semesters as an adjunct instructor in the adult evening bachelor’s degree program at Roosevelt University, an urban university serving a largely adult, commuter student body. Dr. Thompson joined Roosevelt full-time as an Assistant Professor of Biology in 1980. He contributed to Roosevelt’s growth and success as a teacher, department-level administrator, associate provost and provost. He played an important role in the renaissance of Roosevelt’s downtown Chicago Campus and promoted that campus as part of a multi-institution Chicago Loop Education Corridor that he helped to realize and define. Dr. Thompson’s Chicago experience also included two years as an administrator in the central offices of the City Colleges of Chicago, Chicago’s community college system.
In 2004 Dr. Thompson became Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Kean University, a large public institution in Union, New Jersey. At Kean he oversaw the revitalization of faculty scholarship and the development of many new programs, including the university’s first doctoral programs, and a successful branch campus in Ocean County, New Jersey.
In May 2008 Dr. Thompson assumed the presidency of Metropolitan College of New York. Under his leadership Metropolitan College increased enrollment, successfully renewed its primary accreditation, achieved specialized accreditation in business and teacher education, and established new degree programs in health care management, special education, undergraduate emergency management and information technology. He also led successful campaigns to build new campuses in both Manhattan and the Bronx, beautiful facilities that opened in May 2016 and September 2016, respectively.
Dr. Thompson has participated in several community efforts, including the multiethnic campaign to elect Chicago’s first African-American mayor, the grassroots campaign for school reform and parent led local school councils in the Chicago Public Schools, and the contemporary drive to revitalize the South Bronx. He was a founding director of the Yes We Must Coalition, a group of smaller independent colleges and universities that promotes collaborative approaches to better serving students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
In his off hours Dr. Thompson hikes, cooks Chinese, reads history, pursues his scientific interests, and occasionally rollerblades on weekends. He has an associate appointment at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan, where he maintains a working entomology collection. Every few years he and his wife Ruth Moscovitch participate in organized scientific expeditions to collect insects in exotic habitats, most recently in Vietnam and China.
The Thompsons have two sons, both college graduates. One is a radio reporter in Boston. The other works for a San Francisco community service organization that provides financial counseling for economically disadvantaged populations. Ruth is an attorney and artist. She has an active arbitration practice in labor-management relations and is the president of Manhattan Graphics, a printmaker’s cooperative located in Times Square, Manhattan. The Thompsons live in Lower Manhattan, close to the new MCNY Manhattan Campus, and are members of Tamid, the Downtown Synagogue. In August 2014 and July 2017 they celebrated the birth of their first grandchildren, Tenaz and Raphael.
In June 2017, Dr. Thompson announced his pending retirement as president in June 2018, to follow just over ten years of service and his 11th MCNY commencement ceremony. The Thompsons plan to stay in New York and maintain ties to MCNY, while he returns to a life of science at the American Museum and they both spend more time at their second home in the New Hampshire mountains and with grandchildren in California.