Open house honors Conway Thompson

Hundreds of former students, teachers, staff, friends and family came together on Saturday to honor Conway Thompson.

Thompson served Cambridge-Isanti Public Schools and communities as a teacher, coach and principal from 1951 to 1978. An open house/reunion was held Saturday, May 19, at the Cambridge Intermediate School Auditorium to honor, celebrate an recognize his legendary contributions over the years.

Thompson spent the first hour of the open house being greeted and thanked by a long line of friends, former staff, students and colleagues. Coordinated by committee members Lois Tureen, Howard Arneson, George Larson and Bob Salo, the program featured special speakers and musical selections.

“I never much liked history, but Conway, you made history come alive for me,” former student Bob Sundberg said. “Thank you for the gift that you gave to all of us—a love of education.”

Thompson began with the school district in 1951 as a teacher of world history and business classes, and served in this capacity until 1959.

Besides teaching, Thompson served as the head boys basketball and baseball coach from 1951 to 1957. He is credited for forming the golf team in Cambridge, and was head boys golf coach from 1957 to 1968. He noted the team won 10 consecutive Rum River Championships, and also went to the state tournament twice.

“Conway was an excellent role model at teaching the game,” Steve Miller said, referring to the golf team. “He not only taught me golf, but also about life. He truly had a great influence on many people… It has been an honor to know Conway, to benefit from the influence of who he is.”

Thompson became secondary school principal (grades 7-12) in 1959 and remained as principal until his retirement from the district in 1978. He served as president of District 16 School Principals.

Former Assistant Principal Dave Larson told a story about how Thompson took him aside one day to show Larson vandalism at the school. In bright red lipstick, facing Larson’s office, someone had written “LARSON SUCKS.” They kept walking along the wall, and facing Thompson’s office, the same red lipstick wrote “MR. THOMPSON SUCKS.”

Thompson looked at Larson, smirked and said, “You notice they call me ‘Mr. Thompson.’ This is the kind of respect you’ll receive when you finally arrive as principal.”

“He taught me that you have to have a sense of humor,” Larson said. “You don’t have to take the day-to-day conflicts personally. It’s part of the job. That’s just one of many things I learned from him over the next several years.”

Patty Jakovich said the phone call she received from Thompson in 1972 to offer her a teaching position changed her life.

“Something Conway told his staff often was, ‘It’s our job to make the world a better place than when we found it,’” she said. “Education is a great equalizer. We worked as a team at Cambridge Junior High, and Conway, of course, was the best kind of coach.  He made the world a better place for students by observing and listening.”

When it was Thompson’s turn at the podium, he reminisced about his time as a coach, teacher and principal.

“Thanks for the memories,” he said.

At the end, Bob Salo presented Thompson with gifts, including a world globe that revolves using solar power and a plaque that reads:

Conway Thompson
Cambridge-Isanti Schools
1951-1978
Coach – Teacher – Principal
“Throughout Conway’s career as a teacher, coach, and principal, he always had the well-being of his students first and foremost. He was a dedicated educator who went above and beyond in his quest for excellence.”
“Conway always cared.”

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