Music department legend, Dr. Kathy Thompson, retires from position

After a department changing tenure, Kathy Thompson will be retiring from Oklahoma Christian after this school year. Photo by Allyson Hazelrigg.

After a department changing tenure, Kathy Thompson will be retiring from Oklahoma Christian after this school year. Photo by Allyson Hazelrigg.

A 30-year legacy comes to an end as Dr. Kathy Thompson prepares to retire from her position as chair of the department of music at Oklahoma Christian University.

Thompson said she began her time at the university as an accompanist in 1987. She said she joined as part-time faculty after Dr. Harold Fletcher retired, and later became a full-time faculty member in 1997. Thompson said she held a wide range of positions during her time at Oklahoma Christian.

“I’ve been here 30 years altogether,” Thompson said. “I’ve taught orchestra — I actually started the orchestra. It was a quartet originally back in 1993 and it’s grown through the years — first from a string ensemble, to the chamber orchestra.”

According to Thompson, her influence reached beyond campus when she joined the Oklahoma Community Orchestra. She said her position at Oklahoma Christian allowed her to connect students with opportunities in the community.

“I’ve been in Oklahoma Community Orchestra, which we also offer as a class for students who are ready for that experience,” Thompson said. “I’ve been the liaison between the community orchestra and OC. I’ve developed our music academy, so I supervise student teachers in teaching private piano lessons. I’ve taught in a lot of different areas.”

Thompson said she enjoyed working with students and forming close relationships with faculty members during her tenure on campus. She said most of the music department faculty has worked alongside her for the entirety of those years.

“I love teaching and I love getting to meet students of all kinds — of all levels. I very much enjoy the camaraderie here,” Thompson said. “I just have wonderful people to work with — both students and administration and my colleagues here, so I’ve enjoyed that very much.”

Thompson said she has been planning her retirement for a couple years now — mainly driven by her desire to spend more time with her grandchildren. She said she would like to help her granddaughter who has autism, and prepare for another grandchild expected this summer.

“I have several grandchildren in the area now, so I want to be able to spend more time with them,” Thompson said. “I have a new granddaughter to arrive sometime this summer, so It will be fun to have time with the newest one as well.”

Although Thompson said these are all incentives to retire, she said it will be difficult to give up her teaching position. She said she hopes to teach some classes on campus occasionally — when not helping her family.

“I love teaching so much that it’s hard to even think about not teaching,” Thompson said. “I may do some adjunct work if needed.”

Senior Becca Bingham said she was in Thompson’s piano classes, performed with the orchestra and currently works in the music office. Bingham said Thompson’s qualities as a professor line up with her qualities as a person — a genuinely caring individual who creates a positive environment to work in.

“It’s a very relaxed but organized environment,” Bingham said. “She’s able to work individually with each student every class period. She’s very nice and caring, she wants you to succeed as a student, but also as a person. She cares a lot about her students and what she’s doing.”

Thompson said she is pleased with the decision to have Dr. Heath Jones, professor of music, fill her position as chair of the department. She said Jones will contribute new ideas and valuable leadership to the music department.

“I think he’ll do a wonderful job,” Thompson said. “His strengths and mine are a little different. He’s wonderful as far as knowing the newest thing and staying up and staying current and having great ideas. He’s had some wonderful leadership opportunities, he’s really stepped up to them, and really studied being a leader. He has a lot of good energy.”

After taking classes from both Thompson and Jones, Bingham said she believes Jones will handle his new role well. She said there may be changes in methods of leadership, but is anxious to see what next year holds.

“I think Dr. Jones and Thompson are kind of different in their leadership styles, but I think Dr. Jones will do a good job at stepping in where Dr. Thompson has been,” Bingham said. “It’ll be interesting, because they are so different, to see kind of how roles change in the department next year.”

Jones said he is looking forward to his new position next school year. He said he admires the faculty who have held the position as chair prior to him, and hopes to carry on their positive impact. He said he wants to urge students to recognize Thompson’s impact on Oklahoma Christian and appreciate the contributions she has made to the music department.

“Really what I’m looking forward to most is giving back — serving OC,” Jones said. “The people I work with are my greatest mentors, so it’s scary on one hand, but on the other hand I’m excited to try to be like the people who were before me.”

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