Moritz College of Law The Ohio State University
This Month @ Moritz

Artistry in Motion: The Circuitous Career of Larry Thompson '78

Larry Thompson congratulates a Ringling student
Larry congratulates a Ringling student

Larry Thompson came to Moritz law school with a degree in math from Wittenberg University, experience as director of financial aid at Wilmington College, and a desire to work in higher education. "I'd always been interested in law," he says. "It had the logic of math with the human interest element."

His first job after graduation was with Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease, where he worked on education issues with the firm's institutional clients such as Ohio State, Denison and Ohio Northern universities.

In 1981, he received the first of several career-changing phone calls.
Then-OSU President Edward Jennings asked Thompson if he would spend six months working as a lawyer on his senior staff. Six months became seven years as Larry served as the special assistant to the president, where his role as a troubleshooter not only had him mediating disputes, but also at various times had him running the WOSU stations and the athletic department.

In 1988, Larry received a call from an executive research firm, seeking candidates with leadership experience in higher education for a unique job — start-up director and chief executive officer of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. "I gave them some names and they asked me, 'What about you?'" Thompson said. "My only response was, 'Good golly, Miss Molly.'"

Original efforts to begin the project stalled and the record industry was threatening to move the planned site from Cleveland. "It was in a tenuous position when I came in," he said. "Many did not believe it would become a reality." By 1992, the facility was up and running and Larry received another call.

Next stop, Flint, Michigan. Larry took a position as president and chief executive officer of the Flint Cultural Center Corporation—a not-for-profit organization with a nine-building campus for a variety of arts pursuits including theater, music and visual arts.

Larry Thompson
Larry at home in the Ringling president's office
"The major difficulty was that all these arts organizations were at war with each other," Thompson said. "My role was to get them to work together and bring financial stability." In six years, Thompson oversaw a $30-million fund raising campaign. Arts Management, America's oldest national periodical for arts professionals named Larry "Arts Administrator of the Year in 1997."

The phone rang again and Thompson found himself in Florida as the president of the Ringling School of Art and Design, where he remains today. "I was intrigued," he says. "I'd wanted to get back into higher education. It has been unbelievable." The school has 1,000 students and offers six different majors including computer animation and photography and digital imaging.

Professor James Meeks, Jacob E. Davis Professor of Law, worked with Thompson during his time at OSU and the two have remained friends.

"He's had a fascinating career with a diverse use of his law degree," Meeks said. "He went into law hard at the beginning. Now he's back to education."

Thompson says his career path has been great and he loves where he has landed. He credits OSU for much of that. "I thought I'd just go back into higher education," he said. "It led me down a whole different path. What I really love is the thought process, the whole way of thinking, analyzing and creative problem solving—skills I learned in law school."