Dr. Cleon Thompson Jr., who served for 10 years as chancellor of Winston-Salem State University, has died.

Thompson served as chancellor from 1985 to 1995. Among his accomplishments was revitalizing Winston-Salem State’s School of Nursing. The university’s student services center also bears his name.

Dennis Felder has taught sports management at Winston-Salem State for nearly 40 years, arriving shortly before Thompson’s chancellorship. He says Thompson always let people know where he stood, but that didn’t stop him from being approachable.

“He could call, talk to a farmer and be able to relate to them just like you talking to a person that is the governor," he says. "So he had that charisma, where he could relate to everybody, the students, the staff, the administrators.” 

Thompson also broke barriers. In 1977 he earned a doctorate in education from Duke University, becoming one of the school’s first Black Ph.D. graduates.

In the early 1980s he served for about a year as interim chancellor of North Carolina A&T, where he had taught biology about 20 years earlier. 

Funeral services were held last week in Raleigh, where Thompson lived. Cleon Thompson Jr. was 92.

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