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News and information from Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, Kansas.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Son's gift recalls a life devoted to teaching

A donation made this week to Pittsburg State University proves that even if they aren’t in the form of a check, gifts from friends and alumni can play a vital role in the future of PSU students.

It’s been decades since Geraldine Thompson, who received her teaching certificate from PSU in 1940, set foot on campus. But this week, her family remembered the work of the former teacher by donating two special gifts to PSU. Thompson’s son, Steve Terhune of Norman, Okla.; his daughter, Stephanie Wills of Tulsa, Okla.; and Thompson’s nephew, Chet Hiatt and his wife Norma, of Pittsburg, presented to the Department of Education a framed poem and painting of a one-room schoolhouse Thompson taught in following her days at PSU.

The pieces will be displayed in Hughes Hall, said Dr. Chris Christman, chairman of the Department of Special Services and Leadership Studies at PSU.

The poem, written by Terhune, is a way to honor his mother, who now lives in an assisted living facility inNorman. In it he writes of her life, including her rise to become salutatorian of her senior class, her efforts to save ration stamps in order to buy fruit during the Great Depression, her teaching career at the Globe Schoolhouse in Mound Valley, Kan., and her marriage to a Navy sailor.

“I want this to be an inspiration for future teachers,” Terhune said. “I hope that they will see this and think about what a child has taught them about life. That was the message my mother wanted to convey to other teachers.”

Thompson taught at three one-room schoolhouses during her five years of teaching, including the Globe Schoolhouse, which is also the subject of the painting (Norman artist Marilyn DeFleur created the painting from a photo of the school, which still stands today). During the war, Thompson went to work for an ammunition plant in Parsons, Kan. After moving to Norman with her family, she opened Raggedy Ann and Andy, a daycare center she operated for 30 years. Influencing the lives of children, said Terhune, was always the focus of her life. It is a message he hopes his gift will pass on to students today.

“It’s getting harder to get students into teaching, and we’re trying to appeal to them that if you can get that education, you may not be wealthy but you will have a lifetime of wealth,” Christman said. “This is a good message for our students of the value of teaching. It is a wonderful gift to the university.”

(Above: Stephanie Wills, of Tulsa, holds a portrait of the Globe Schoolhouse in Mound Valley, Kan., with her father, Steve Terhune of Norman, Okla.)

---Pitt State---