He's a lawyer and mathematician amidst hundreds of creative types.
It's a strange juxtaposition, but it seems to work for Dr. Larry R. Thompson. He is marking his 10th year as president of Ringling College of Art and Design
in Sarasota, FL. In three years, the 77-year-old college has expanded from six majors to 14, and from 800 students to more than 1200 today.
But he's motivated by more than growth. He talks fervently and frequently about harnessing the nation's creative energy, such as the creativity all around him, because "if we can infuse the world of business with it, we can jump-start our economy."
Another of his goals is to bury what he calls "the myth of the starving artist."
Toward those goals, Dr. Thompson launched a first-in-the-nation program called "The Business of Art and Design." It's a four-year curriculum that he is convinced will produce the business leaders of tomorrow. Says Dr. Wanda Chaves, lead faculty member of the new program, "the art and design degree is in some ways the quintessential business degree.
"It's the first to integrate the study of business and the study of studio art and design -- marrying the right and left brain into one practice," says Dr. Chavez.
Dr. Larry R. Thompson
Dr. Thompson is a busy fellow, quite aside from his "full-time" job as president of a burgeoning art and design school. He is secretary of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design, and is a member of the President's Council of the Independent Colleges and Universitry of Florida. Locally, he is past president of the Sarasota County Arts Council and serves on its board. He is Leadership Spokesman for the Innovation 41 Art and Cultural Corridor project. And he is a board member of Coastal Behavioral Healthcare and also Community Health Corporation for Sarasota Memorial Hospital, Sun Trust, Sarasota Season of Sculpture, and the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce. He also participates on the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County Partners Council.
Before taking over the reins at Ringling, he was President and CEO of the Flint Cultural Center in Michigan -- a 30-acre campus encompassing the nine leading cultural institutions of the Greater Flint area.
Before that, he was Founding Director and CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, OH. Earlier, he served for seven years as Special ASsistant to the President of The Ohio State UNiversity.
He graduated from Ohio State with his law degree -- Juris Doctorate summa cum laude -- and then practiced law for a number of years with a large Columbus firm.
Ringling College of Art and Design
Founded in 1931 by John Ringling, noted art collector, real estate developer, and circus impresario. The college is a four-year, independent, not-for-profit which confers Bachelor of Fine Arts and Bachelor of Arts Degrees in 14 disciplines.
Of the student body of more than 1200 -- most of whom live on campus -- 49% are from Florida and the balance from 47 states, 30 countries, Washington DC, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Females make up 57% of the student body, and males 43%.
Most popular majors are: Illustration 32% of total enrollment, computer animation and game art 27%, graphic and interactive communication 15%.