In Memoriam: Cleon T. Thompson, 1931-2024

Cleon F. Thompson, former chancellor of historically Black Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina, passed away on January 27. He was 92 years old.

Dr. Thompson served as chancellor of Winston-Salem State University for 10 years. Some of Dr. Thompson’s accomplishments as chancellor included a focus on hiring high-quality faculty members, expanding undergraduate research opportunities, and revitalizing the School of Nursing.

University of North Carolina System president Peter Hans stated Dr. Thompson “was a trailblazer, a leader who envisioned great possibilities and worked to achieve them. I join everyone in the Ram family in mourning his loss.”

Prior to his position at Winston-Salem State University, Dr. Thompson held academic appointments at two other historically Black universities. He served as a biology professor and administrator at Shaw University in North Carolina, followed by a one-year term as interim chancellor of North Carolina A&T State University. Dr. Thompson received his doctoral degree in education from Duke University in 1977, making him one of the first Black students to earn a Ph.D. from the university

In a statement to the university, interim chancellor of Winston-Salem State University Anthony Graham wrote, “As we mourn the loss of a visionary and transformative leader, let us remember Dr. Cleon F. Thompson for the enduring legacy he leaves behind. His impact on our university will be felt for generations to come. In honoring his memory, let us continue to strive for excellence in all our academic pursuits and uphold the values that Dr. Thompson held dear.”

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