Betty Lynd Thompson
Dance professor Betty Lynd Thompson was born on January 23, 1902, in Bloomington, Illinois, to William and Ottillia Thompson, the youngest of four children. Her mother passed away when she was in high school. Thompson's love of dance began when she was five years old, after performing a dance routine with her classmates. She attended Illinois Wesleyan University and earned a BA in English Literature before going on to receive her Master's degree from the University of Wisconsin - the first school to offer a major in dance - in 1926. After receiving her degree, she taught summer school at Indiana University and the University of Arizona, among other universities, before arriving in Corvallis.
Thompson came to Oregon State College in September 1927 to teach dance in the Department of Physical Education for Women. Until 1945 she taught all dance classes at OSC -- modern, folk, square, tap, and ballroom -- as well as basic rhythm and movement. As other dance faculty were added to the department, she was able to concentrate on her major interest of creative dance. She also wrote a college textbook for dance instruction, Fundamentals of Rhythm and Dance, which was published in 1933. She likewise authored numerous brochures and manuals on everyday activities that could benefit one's fitness. In 1931 she founded the Oregon State chapter of Orchesis, the modern dance honorary, and this group performed for Canadian servicemen during the second World War.
Thompson never stopped pursuing dance studies, and spent many summers attending Bennington College in New York, where she received training from many famous dancers, especially Martha Graham, who became a friend as well as a mentor. She also studied with Hanya Holm, Mary Wigman, Doris Humphrey, and Jose Limon.
In the 1940s Thompson became interested in ceramics while volunteering with the USO, and she soon took up a hobby of sculpting small figurines of dancers. (She referred to this work as "danceramics".) She never married, though she dated Eugene Starr, a Professor of Electrical Engineering, for many years. She also owned and cared for many animals throughout her lifetime.
Thompson retired from OSU in 1972, after a forty-seven-year career. In retirement she continued to teach fitness classes to senior citizens in the community. On her 83rd birthday, colleagues and friends organized a celebration, during which she danced on stage. She died a month later on March 2, 1985.