Al Thompson
Courtesy: Columbia University Athletics

In recent years, the sport of track & field has evolved. New shoes, new gear, new training surfaces, new training methods and an influx of talented athletes to the Columbia Athletics program have led to an essential re-writing of the Columbia track & field record books. But there is one name that has withstood the test of time: Dr. Albert J. Thompson, whose throwing records have remained untouched for over six decades.

A native New Yorker, Thompson came to Morningside Heights with three individual New York City high school titles he earned while at George Washington High School. At Columbia, he continued to add to his trophy collection. It wasn’t until his junior season that Thompson truly began to blossom as a thrower. In 1953, he dominated the Ivy League in throwing events, winning title at both the indoor and outdoor Heptagonal Championships. Indoors, he won titles in the 35-pound weight throw and the shot put, and continued into the spring, adding an outdoor championship in the shot put. That season, he was one of the best shot putters in the nation, as he was ranked fourth overall for the duration of the season. He followed that up with an indoor title in the shot put his senior year, and a second place finish in discus at the outdoor championships. In all, he graduated with six top-three finishes in the shot put, discus and weight throw, in both the Ivy League and the IC4A championships. He also set the school record for shot put, which has not been touched since 1954.

Upon graduation in 1954, Thomson served as a lieutenant in the Naval Reserves, and continued his throwing career there. He had the opportunity to compete at the 1956 Armed Forces Track & Field championships, finishing in the top three in both shot put and the discus, and qualifying for the 1956 US Olympic Trials.

Thompson, forever a Lion at heart, returned to Columbia after his time with the Navy was up, to enroll in the School of Dental and Oral Surgery.  Since his graduation in 1960, Thompson has remained an active alum, serving as an assistant clinical professor at the Dental School, a member of the Committee on Admissions, chairman of the Committee on Minority Affairs, a member of the Columbia University Alumni Advisory Committee, and president of the dental school’s Association of Alumni. Thompson, who is married to Angela Crossdale Thompson, has also been a strong supporter of Columbia’s athletics program. He was chairman of the Alumni Track Advisory Committee and member of the Executive Committee of the Varsity C Club from 1970-74.