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Associate Dean for Special Collections, Gregory Thompson, to Retire After Five Decades of Service

Over the course of his career Gregory Thompson, Ph.D. has received 14 honors and awards, has authored, co-authored, or edited 12 books and written more articles and reviews than one person can count. He has conducted countless oral histories, attended hundreds of community events, and raised millions in dollars and contributed collections. The list of presentations that Greg has given fills three pages on his resume.

All of this work, spanning Greg’s 54-year career, materializes in the 30 miles of archival shelving in Special Collections where the history of Utah and the American West is preserved. On July 31 Greg will retire, leaving this vast collection for all to use, explore, and enjoy in perpetuity.

Greg is the Associate Dean of the University of Utah’s J. Willard Marriott Library for Special Collections and an Adjunct Assistant Professor of History. Additionally, Greg has served as the State Archivist (GRAMA Records Officer) since 1983. He received his Bachelor of Science degree from Colorado State University (1965), Bachelor of Arts degree from Fort Lewis College (1967), and his Master of Science (1971) and Doctoral (1981) degrees from the University of Utah.

Gregory Thompson in lower row, far right, J. Willard Marriott Library, 1972.

“It is not an exaggeration to say that without Greg Thompson the American West Center would not be what it is today,” says Greg Smoak, Director, American West Center and Associate Professor of History at the U. “From the time he began working at the center as a grad student over a half century ago through the countless partner projects he created and directed at the Marriott’s Special Collections Department, Greg’s energy and vision have sustained the center and its mission. And throughout it all he has been an inspiration for generations of publicly engaged scholars, including myself, who cut their teeth at the American West Center.”

With Alan K. Engen, Greg co-authored the book First Tracks: A Century of Skiing (2001), which focuses on the history of skiing in Utah.
With Alan K. Engen, Greg Thompson, Ph.D. co-authored the book First Tracks: A Century of Skiing (2001), which focuses on the history of skiing in Utah.

From 1967 to 1983, Greg served on the staff of the University of Utah’s American West Center.  During this time, he worked with and helped develop tribal histories, tribal archives, and oral history collections for fifteen tribes across the Western United States. His own research focused on the Ute tribes of Colorado and Utah, and he served as a consultant to the San Juan County School District in Utah and the Southern Ute Tribe of Ignacio, Colorado. Greg has published several monographs on the Ute tribe including Southern Ute Lands, 1848-1899: The Creation of a Reservation (1972); The Southern Utes: A Tribal History (1972); and edited, with Floyd A. O’Neil, Ph.D. (now deceased) A History of the Indians of the United States: A Syllabus (1979).

Robert W. Delany, Gregory Thompson, and Floyd O’Neil look over a collection at the Center for Southwest Studies at Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO, circa mid 60s.

In the 1980’s Greg co-founded, with the late Sue Raemer, the Marriott Library’s Utah Ski Archives Program. He grew up in Durango, Colorado and as a youngster skied and competed in Colorado and New Mexico. An original member of the Alf Engen Ski Museum Foundation Board and the Board of Trustees, Greg has been involved with skiing since the early 1950s as a participant and historian. He has lectured widely and published numerous articles on the history of skiing in the Intermountain area. His latest publication, with Alan K. Engen, First Tracks: A Century of Skiing (2001) focuses on the history of skiing in Utah. Greg is also the general editor for the Tanner Trust Publication Series, Utah, The Mormons, and the West.

The recipient of numerous awards and honors, in 2019 Greg was named a Fellow by the Utah Division of State History, the highest honor given by that institution. Other highlights include the Gordon M. Bakken Award of Merit from the Western History Association Conference in 2018, the Conference on Inter-Mountain Archivists (CIMA) Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014, and the Service Award from the Utah State Historical Society in 2000.

“In the five decades that Dr. Thompson has served the University of Utah, scholarship on the history of the West has flourished,” explains Alberta Comer, Dean of Libraries. “Because of his passion for growing primary source materials, the Marriott Library’s Special Collections is now one of the premier collections in the U.S., supporting research focused on the region’s indigenous and immigrant communities, such industries as mining and outdoor recreation, and the culture, technology, and history which defines Utah and the American West.”

  • Luise Poulton
    Posted at 14:27h, 14 May Reply

    Greg’s leadership was inspiring — tireless, generous, and bold. Thank you, Greg!

  • Carol Sandberg
    Posted at 18:20h, 17 May Reply

    The end of an era. I have enjoyed working with Greg since we first met him in the 1980s. His vision has been essential in developing the Marriott Special Collections Department in the past 3-4 decades. I wish him a happy, healthy retirement, and I will certainly miss him.

  • Rick Anderson
    Posted at 18:23h, 17 May Reply

    It’s almost impossible to imagine the Marriott Library without Greg’s energetic, inspiring, and thoughtful presence. Not only the U, but the State of Utah and the entire Mountain West owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude. (As do I personally, given how much I benefited from his thoughtful and caring mentorship during my 13 years in that library.)

    Warmest wishes for a fun and (undoubtedly) busy retirement, Greg!

  • Marcus G. Theodore
    Posted at 18:29h, 17 May Reply

    All the best for a well earned retirement. Your work has provided a significant contribution to the University. Well done.

  • Kristin Kraus
    Posted at 18:45h, 17 May Reply

    Congratulations, Greg! A well-deserved retirement after an impressive career. We are all richer for your service and contributions.

  • Ken Sanders
    Posted at 18:54h, 17 May Reply

    Greg Thompson’s achievements as a scholar, historian, librarian, mentor, colleage and friend cannot be overstated. If Will Bagley, Michael Quinn & Rick Turley all got together to write a multi volume series about the amazing Dr. Thompson, they would run out of paper prior to finishig the series. His kind will not come our way again. Thank you Greg for everything that you have done and continue to do. You have made a huge difference in the lives of many, including mine.
    Best Regards,
    Ken Sanders

  • Janice Clemmer Ph.D., Pd.D., J.D.
    Posted at 19:01h, 17 May Reply

    Greg–Thank you for years of service, but 54 years! Holy cow! Time flies! Your contributions have been a wonderful flow of information for the 45 years I’ve known you. You shall be missed, but your new downtime (a.k.a. retirement) will be appreciated by your family. The Colorado Kid has done well!

  • Paul Reeve
    Posted at 19:06h, 17 May Reply

    I can’t imagine the Marriott Library without Greg Thompson. What a legacy! Congratulations Greg on your retirement and thank you for building such a fantastic collection for those of us who work on Utah history, Native American history, and the history of the US West.

  • John Alley
    Posted at 19:22h, 17 May Reply

    I to a considerable extent owe my career in book publishing to Greg Thompson–colleague, guide, advocate, confidant, mentor, and, above all, friend. There are too many people and organizations with similar debts for a comprehensive list. Congratulations to one of the nicest, most capable, and most generous people around. Now relax, man; kick back for a while.

  • Matt Basso
    Posted at 20:20h, 17 May Reply

    It is almost unfathomable to imagine Marriott Library and, indeed, the University of Utah, without Greg Thompson. I have never met anyone like him. Soon after I arrived at the U 16 years ago, I was introduced to Greg. He took me under his wing, helped me understand how universities really work, and asked me one question that will always stay with me: how can I support you. Almost every conversation we had — and there have been many over the years — Greg has asked the same question. And when I needed help, which was often, he provided it — and copiously! When I think of model mentorship, I think of Greg. There’s so much more I could say about his intellectual passion, his curiosity, the way he built what I think is one of the finest special collections units in the country. But, for me, I always come back to his kindness and his desire to support others. I am so profoundly thankful I had the chance to work with him — and I look forward to future years of chats over coffee at Coffee Garden. 🙂 Thank you, my friend.

  • Alan Engen
    Posted at 20:41h, 17 May Reply

    Highest congratulations to Greg for his many contributions. I have greatly appreciated my friendship and association with Greg over the past three decades, particularly involving the Utah Ski Archives and the creation of the Joe Quinney Winter Sport Center/Alf Engen Ski Museum. His outstanding leadership and wisdom are admired by all who know him… and, as has been mentioned, his well deserved retirement leaves a significant hole at the J. Willard Marriott Library.

    Thanks Greg for all you have done for skiing history in this region.

  • Linda St Clair
    Posted at 20:41h, 17 May Reply

    Greg, Your retirement is well-deserved after your tireless efforts for collecting and preserving collections! Kudos to you! Happy days to you in retirement!

  • John Durham, U of U Alum
    Posted at 21:31h, 17 May Reply

    Congratulations on a well earned and well deserved retirement Greg. What an amazing legacy you have created at the U of U and at the J. Willard Marriott Library. I have been very privileged to have been able to work with you for many years on the Utah Ski Archives Advisory Board, the Alf Engen Ski Museum Board of Trustees and the Intermountain Ski Hall of Fame Selection Committee. Your understanding of the importance of history in everyone’s lives is unrivaled, your thoughtful input is outstanding and your constant enthusiasm is much appreciated. Most of all I have appreciated your friendship. I look forward to continuing our association on many levels in the future. Best whishes into the next chapter.

  • Patricia Lyn Scott
    Posted at 23:21h, 17 May Reply

    Congratulations, Greg! Your retirement is well deserved after a remarkable career of service to the University, the State of Utah, and countless historians and future researchers. I have been honored to work with you on many projects over more than forty years.. Thank you for your friendship.

  • Michelle Judd
    Posted at 00:51h, 18 May Reply

    Congratulations Greg! It has been such an honor to work with someone like you! I’ve loved listening to your stories and experiences., especially your adventures with Floyd! I will miss your cheery attitude and working together. Enjoy this next chapter and have the best time ever!!

  • Connie Marshall
    Posted at 11:43h, 18 May Reply

    I join with so many in thanking your for your friendship, your gracious professionalism, your keen intelligence and your delightful sense of humor. Your life’s work reads like a tapestry, woven with so much. Enjoy this next stage of life with friends and family doing things that bring you happiness.

    Connie Marshall

  • Larry Warren
    Posted at 14:00h, 18 May Reply

    Congratulations Greg for an amazing career of service in the name of history and so many other great causes. When your Ski Archives co-founder Sue Raemer called me out of the blue 30 years ago and asked if I’d be part of the new Ski Archives, little did I know a 25 year plus collaboration would begin, leading me to new friends and esteemed colleagues and a fascinating journey through the history of the sport we love. Your leadership through fundraising ups and downs kept the collection growing and funding flowing and it wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t poured yourself into it.

  • Fred Brady
    Posted at 14:46h, 18 May Reply

    Greg was always ready with a friendly greeting. The library won’t be the same without him–or without Luise, who retired last week!

  • Hannah New
    Posted at 14:54h, 18 May Reply

    It is hard to imagine the library without you, Greg! You were always there to offer support to us at the Press. We will greatly miss you!

  • Marnie Powers-Torrey
    Posted at 15:13h, 18 May Reply

    To add to his long list of accomplishments, the Book Arts Program & Red Butte Press would not exist without the vision and support of Dr. Thompson. I am incredibly grateful for Greg’s long-time leadership and his direct mentorship over the past 13 years. Keep doing all the things you love to do, Greg, on your own time! Thank you for everything and congratulations!!!

  • Tony Weller
    Posted at 17:44h, 18 May Reply

    I can barely imagine Marriott Library without Greg’s energy. He said, back when i was a juvenile distracted by rock and roll and basketball, Sam mentored him in his work with books, a favor Greg returned to me as my responsibilities increased in our old bookstore. I have solicited his advice and been grateful to receive it. In Sam and Lila Weller’s later years, Greg’s attention to them felt like family. Marriott Library is an important receptacle for local history and Greg’s vision and hand steered it, of course with the assistance of many Special Collections librarians and staff. In an era when books have been challenged by digital media, preserving them is preserving culture. I haven’t spoken to Greg since this announcement, but this rumor was in the wind. Moments like this close volumes in the histories of our lives and time. Who will fill his role?

    Thank you for the service you have given to our community and its record, Greg. I hope you will enjoy whatever plans you are nurturing. It’s hard to imagine you relaxing.

    Love, respect and thanks,

    Tony Weller

  • Mike Homer
    Posted at 18:48h, 18 May Reply

    Job well done Thompson! But there is still a lot to be accomplished. I know you have vision and that your successes will continue in the future.

    Mike Homer

  • SUSAN Mumford
    Posted at 19:38h, 18 May Reply

    On top of all the accomplishments in Special Collections, Greg Thompson was the records officer
    for the years I served as the Executive Secretary for the State Records Committee. He responded to GRAMA requests
    often in a timely and responsible way. A gracious and generous man–a G-Man. thank you, and may you have a good
    time in retirement,

  • Cindy Furse
    Posted at 23:57h, 18 May Reply

    Thanks so much for your support of the Emigration Canyon History Collection, Greg! It has been a delight to work with you. Best wishes for a wonderful retirement … and lots of reading for FUN! Wishing you so well!

  • Randy Dryer
    Posted at 20:26h, 19 May Reply

    Greg…the Library will never be the same without you. Throughout my decades of involvement with the University, you have always been there; a dynamic, diligent, and positive force. Your stewardship of Special Collections has left an incredible legacy for future generations to enjoy. You will be greatly missed. All the best in your retirement.
    Warmest regards,

  • Heidi Brett
    Posted at 21:08h, 19 May Reply

    Greg, There’s still time to change your mind. 🙂 Heidi

  • Cassie Clark
    Posted at 17:50h, 20 May Reply

    Congratulations, Greg! I have appreciated your mentorship and our conversations about public history, sources, and history in general. The library and public history will not be the same without you!

  • Thomas Carter
    Posted at 21:27h, 20 May Reply

    It’s good to know people in high places! Thanks Greg for all your help and support over many many years!

  • Sam Passey
    Posted at 14:51h, 21 May Reply

    Greg, Thanks for giving me (and so many others) a start in the profession.. You’ve influenced a whole lot of us hopefully we can carry the torch forward in a way that you’d appreciate. Wishing you all the best. Hey, Greg, now there’s no excuse to not mow that lawn. I hear that the Marriott Library accepts volunteers.

  • Serdar Budak
    Posted at 16:05h, 22 May Reply

    It is hard to imagine the library without you, Greg! You were always there to offer support to us at the Press. We will greatly miss you!

  • Myron Patterson
    Posted at 17:41h, 24 May Reply

    Greg, Congratulations as you begin the next chapter! You were always welcoming and supportive of me through the years we were colleagues at the Marriott Library.
    I appreciate your candor and encouragement, The library won’t be the same without you.
    All the best!

  • Jamie Weeks
    Posted at 16:52h, 26 May Reply

    Greg, you always provide a welcome smile, a positive outlook, and honest encouragement. I have so appreciated working with you and enjoying lunch conversations at UMA, CIMA, MWDL, and other conferences. Your presence, participation, and immense knowledge will be highly missed! I have loved the opportunity to get to know you! Wishing you all the best and an enjoyable retirement!

  • Mike Korologos
    Posted at 16:09h, 24 June Reply

    I am honored to add my shout-out to the chorus of kudos being bestowed on Dr. Greg Thompson as they pertain to his upcoming retirement from the U. library. No doubt, his accomplishments have earned him a place of his own among the giants who have helped preserve and perpetuated the history of Utah and other parts of the West. While serving with Greg on several boards and in other capacities, I add two important accomplishments that must not go unnoticed. 1. He was very instrumental in helping us secure the files and records of both the Bid and Organizing Committees of the Olympic/Paralympic Winter Games of 2002 for the Marriott Library Special Collections. 2. Greg’s efforts — many of them — helped establish the Greeks of Utah Archives at the Marriott Library Special Collections. For all that — and a lot more, namely your friendship — I say, “Way to Go, Greg.”

  • Brad Westwood
    Posted at 17:47h, 14 July Reply

    Greg is the face of “public outreaching history” in Utah.. As the longtime “imaginer” for the U of U Marriott Library and its Special Collections (in program development, in the mentoring of historians, librarians and archivists, in his massive fundraising efforts and, last but not least, acquiring for the public good thousands of valuable historical collections) Thompson is a juggernaut in Utah and Western history. His greatest contribution however, is the human good he has done, of which I have been a longtime recipient.

  • Roger Myers
    Posted at 21:06h, 16 July Reply

    Greg, thank you for all your support and guidance. I hope all the downhill runs are fine powder.

  • Pam Boles Eglinski
    Posted at 03:50h, 10 November Reply

    Ive been in touch with Geno over the past 6 or 7 years and he told me that you had just retired, so I went on a mission to see what you had accomplished and what your personal history held. I was part of the “crazy gang” lead by Geno, and many others who flooded out of the Center for Academic Advising on Friday and drank themselves crazy until Sunday evening. Geno has been a dear to keep us all connected, albeit one-to-one — not possible as a “Friday night group” at the little bar …DB Cooper’s might entail. I cannot remember who you married … but she was maybe ten years younger than you and fondly called you “the old man.”
    I do hope that you enjoyed this phase of your life, as a scholar, father and husband, and were able to maintain a family in the process.
    I enrolled in the PhD program in Asian Art at the University of Kansas in 1979, finishing my third MA, but never the illusive PhD. I married a professor of Art History of KU and we had one lovely young woman, who is not the proud mother of little Owen, age 2 1/2. I only wish that Ed had lived long enough to know his sweet grandson. I have taken up a whole new vocation — that of writing novels. I’ve just begun my 7th novel–this one takes place 100% in France. See if you’d like to see what stories I write, and those which i hope readers enjoy and share.
    Good luck in your retirement. I didn’t skip a beat when I retired early, at 62. Dove over the cliff from consulting in fundraising to novel writing.. I enjoy fiction better than real life! Good luck in your retirement. Do all the things you never took the time to do., which is to say ENJOY LIFE TO ITS FULLEST!

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