Verne Waldo Thompson

1899 - 1964

Verne Thompson, an accomplished pianist and well-known musicologist, accompanied professionally and taught at three Seventh-day Adventist schools and at Eastman School of Music.

He was born in Dinuba, California, on April 26, 1899, the older of two sons of Harrison (Harry) G. and Birdie Ellen (Ella) Pardee Thompson. Both were given opportunity for music study, Verne in piano and his brother, Julian, in cornet. They attended Pacific Union College, where he graduated with a B.S. in music in 1923 and married Willa Norine Culp that year.

Thompson started taught music at Hawaiian Academy from 1923 to 1929. He then taught at and served as director of the Punahou Music School in Hawaii for twelve years, until the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. He subsequently accompanied Marion Anderson and Lauritz Melchior well-known artists when they visited the islands to perform for the U.S. Armed Forces.

Thompson had completed a B.Mus. in 1929 at the American Conservatory in Chicago and in 1943 was offered a position teaching piano at Emmanuel Missionary College, now Andrews University. He completed an M.Mus. at ACC in 1945. During his time at EMC, he, and his brother, who was serving as chair of the physics department, frequently performed together on campus to enthusiastic listeners.

In 1947 he left EMC to pursue a Ph.D. at Eastman School of Music and completed his degree in 1955. His dissertation was titled Studies in Music Literature: Selected Composers of the 18th and 19th Centuries . . . A Synopsis in Topical Form It was published by the Department of Music Literature, Eastman School of Music, in 1964 and by Wm. C. Brown Co. in 1968.

He then taught at Eastman, where he became the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies. His death on November 20, 1964, at age 65 was treated as a great loss by leaders in the SDA church and his colleagues at Eastman.  At his memorial service so many of the Eastman faculty attended there was standing room only.

His obituary noted, “He was pillar in the church, and a very humble man.  He often played the piano for Sabbath school and church.  He even volunteered his services to play a Rickety old piano for the children.  His death is a great loss to our church, to our denomination, and the Eastman School.”

Dan Shultz/2017

Sources: Obituaries, Atlantic Union Gleaner, April 19, 1965, pg. 7, Pacific Union Recorder, 15 February 15, 1965, and Review and Herald, April 1, 1944, pg. 26; Southwestern Union Record, January 1, 1929, 6; 1944 EMC Cardinal, pg. 23; 1920 and 1930 U.S. Census Records; McComas/Kenny Family Tree,