A Fond Farewell: Dr. Tommie Thompson

Baylor University mourns the passing of two inspirational and dedicated professors from the School of Engineering & Computer Science (ECS). Dr. James B. Farison, professor emeritus of engineering and chair of the engineering department and Dr. Tommie R. Thompson, professor of mechanical engineering. Farison went home to be with the Lord on January 19, 2017, at the age of 78 and Thompson on June 29, 2015 at the age of 74.

November 16, 2017

A Fond Farewell: Dr. Tommie Thompson

Tommie was born in Hickman, Kentucky. In 1963, he married his high school sweetheart, Lynda, and later the couple had one daughter, Alice. Tommie was a respected professor of mechanical engineering at Baylor University and was named Engineer of the Year in 1995 by the Texas Society of Professional Engineers Central Texas Chapter. He retired from Baylor in 2008 after 25 years. He was also an accomplished photographer who enjoyed taking road trips with Lynda while photographing landscapes and nature.

For many years, Tommie met a group of friends every Tuesday for coffee. When they wrapped up their get-togethers each week, they ended it with a laugh and “See you next Tuesday—unless I get a better offer.” On the day of his passing one friend said, “I guess today he got a better offer.”

Dr. Mike Thompson, ECS associate dean for undergraduate programs, said that Dr. Tommie Thompson was a teaching legend at Baylor. 

“Soon after Tommie passed away, I took a tour of Bell Helicopter where the Baylor alumni engineers working there reminisced about how they valued Tommie’s teaching and how it shaped them as engineers,” Thompson said. “Students celebrated making it through his famously rigorous Statics class and there was certainly a sense that if a student made it through ‘Tommie T,’ then they were truly an engineer in the making.” 

Dr. Robert Doty, retired Baylor ECS faculty member and close friend of Dr. Tommie Thompson’s, echoed the same sentiments.

“Dr. Tommie Thompson was a wonderful friend and colleague who was liked and respected by his peers all across the Baylor campus but no one respected him more than his students, which is the ultimate compliment you can pay to a teacher who is totally dedicated to excellence in education,” Doty said. “Tommie prepared and delivered material in such a way that his students were both challenged and rewarded in a way they never forgot. They always looked back on his classes with fond memories of the time they got to spend with Doctor “T” and agreed that he was indeed a teaching legend at Baylor.”

Rick Tullis, a Baylor engineering alumnus and now owner of Capstone Mechanical in Waco, was one of those students.

“Dr. Tommie Thompson cared enough about his students to make his courses rigorous and challenging,” Tullis said. “He knew that real-world engineering doesn’t have an answer in the back of the book.” And it wasn’t just the students who learned from him. His colleagues grew in knowledge from him and valued his friendship.

“At the close of each week on late Friday afternoons, I would drop by Tommie’s to pick his brain about teaching and we would have great conversations about our shared interests in photography, music and life in general,” Thompson remembered. “He was a great teacher, friend and colleague and he is certainly missed.”