When Paul H. Thompson returned to Weber State College Sept. 1, it was a homecoming of sorts for the newly appointed president and his wife, Carolyn.
Pres. Thompson, 51, grew up in Warren, a small town just west of Ogden and attended Weber State, then a two-year school, in 1957-1958. Sister Thompson, a North Ogden native, spent a year as a student body officer at Weber during her time at the college, from 1957-1959.Now more than 30 years later - with numerous university experiences as a student, professor and administrator - Pres. Thompson and his family have returned to Weber State to carry the school through the 1990s.
"When I came here there were four small buildings and 2,000 students," Pres. Thompson reflected. "Now there are more than 14,000 students and 400 faculty members. Things have really changed."
Since taking the helm as the 10th president of Weber State, Thompson - a member of the Ogden 77th Ward, Ogden Utah Burch Creek Stake - has spent the past two months meeting faculty members and "finding out what is important to them," he said.
"Most of what I've been doing is going around meeting with faculty in small groups to find out what direction we should go and how we should be going. It has been a fun experience. I've been very impressed with the faculty."
Pres. Thompson also plans to meet with students and members of the community to "articulate where we are going to be heading at Weber State. What we are doing right now is shaping the future of the institution.
"This is an exciting time to be at Weber State," he said, noting that Weber State College will change its name to Weber State University Jan. 1, 1991, thanks to legislation recently passed by Utah lawmakers.
"It is not going to change the school dramatically," he said. "Our mission to provide a quality education for undergraduates will not change. We do that very well at Weber State and we are committed to the students.
"It's getting harder to find a school where you can get a good education and where the faculty pays attention to students. Weber State has done that for years and will continue to do so. We have a bright future and it's very exciting."
Sister Thompson added, "We're delighted to be back here again where we grew up. We are meeting old friends and making new ones. We're impressed with what a great school Weber has become and is becoming. It's a quality institution."
Pres. Thompson married his childhood sweetheart - the girl he met in a 7th grade chorus class - after returning from the British Mission in 1961. They are the parents of six children. Daylyn, 15, and Nathan, 12, are living with them in the president's home near campus.
"We don't have a lot of spare time these days, but we like to spend time with the family," Pres. Thompson related. "We like to support the kids in their activities and that's a big part of what we do."
Pres. Thompson was recently released as president of the Brigham Young University 9th Stake, where he previously served as a counselor. He has served as a branch president, elders quorum president, a high councilor and on the Evaluation and Correlation Committee of the Church.
Now the brownish-gray haired president leads a college with a student body that is almost 65 percent LDS, with a large adjacent Institute of Religion program. Prior to becoming president at Weber State, Thompson was vice president of development and university relations at BYU, and was dean of the BYU Marriott School of Management from 1984-1989. He has also taught organizational behavior at the university and served as organizational behavior department chairman for four years and as assistant dean for three years.
He received his doctorate from the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration, where he also received a master's degree. He earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Utah.
Sister Thompson has also been involved in academics. After graduating from Weber College, she received her bachelor's degree from BYU. Prior to the move to Ogden, she worked as the adviser for the high school completion program in the Provo School District, part of the Center for High School Studies at Utah Valley Community College.
After graduating from Harvard, Pres. Thompson was an assistant professor in the Harvard Graduate School of Business and assistant director of the doctoral program.
"I didn't really ever set a goal to become a university president," Pres. Thompson said. "When I decided to go into the doctoral program in education I wanted to be a professor, but they kept appointing me to administrative positions."
Wm. Rolfe Kerr, Utah commissioner of higher education and a friend of Pres. Thompson's, encouraged him to submit his application after former Weber Pres. Stephen D. Nadauld left to accept other employment.
Pres. Thompson plans to be at Weber State for nine years, the average presidential term, and then hopes to return to teaching, he said.
His experiences at Harvard and BYU have helped form his leadership style, he added.
While at Harvard he learned to interact with graduate students and then at BYU he had a chance to work with undergraduate students.
"At BYU I also enjoyed working with the faculty and learned that it was very important in a university to get their support."
As dean of the Marriott School of Management, he developed fund raising skills and learned how to work with alumni, friends of the university and corporations willing to give money to further the educational cause.
He also spent time at BYU revising curriculum and learning the ins and outs of an educational institution.
For Pres. Thompson, his interest in young people and learning has kept him in the university setting for most of his life.
"My father feels bad I never left school. But I really love working with students whether it's at Harvard, BYU or Weber.
"The world is changing dramatically. Education is extremely important in my view of the world. We need to be aware - studying, learning, analyzing - or the world is going to pass us by."