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Thompson returns to UMES in a new role

  • Friday, March 14, 2014

    Dr. Thelma B.. Thompson

    PRINCESS ANNE, MD - (March 24, 2014) - Former UMES President Thelma B. Thompson returns Monday, April 14 to the institution she led for nine years with a new job description - novelist.

    Thompson will read from her new book, "Bay Leaves and Cinnamon Sticks: Life Is," a fictional story that traces a woman's life journey as a Jamaican immigrant who settles in America. (She initially planned to visit campus March 24, but her appearance had to be rescheduled.) 

    She will appear April 14 at the Richard Henson Center from 4-to-6 p.m., where she'll also sign copies of the novel and another book she wrote for children. The public is invited.

    Thompson and her family left their native Jamaica in the 1960s. She entered Howard University in Washington, where she earned three degrees, including a doctorate in English literature.

    After a brief stint as a journalist, she found her calling as an educator. She good-naturedly refers to herself as "Jamerican."

    She became the University of Maryland Eastern Shore's 13th leader in July 2002. During her tenure enrollment grew nearly 25 percent and she pushed academic departments to achieve peer-review accreditations.

    Today, 28 degree programs have earned that credential, including the business school and the pharmacy program; a graduate degree she vigorously campaigned to garner state approval.

    When Thompson announced her retirement from UMES' presidency, she wistfully mentioned looking forward to finishing a novel she longed to produce. Since leaving UMES, she has been honored for career accomplishments by the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and the Black College Alumni Hall of Fame.

    Bays Leaves & Cinnamon Sticks - A LifeThe book jacket summary says "Bay Leaves" focuses "on age-old, societal behaviors and relationships, with a modern twist. Ambition and love trigger noble acts alongside infidelity and intrigue."

    It also "explores issues of immigration, blended families, generational differences, sexual preferences, wealth and poverty."

    The backdrop for the story of Millie, the main character, is "the beautiful simplicity of a Caribbean island, Jamaica, and the man-made sophistication of New York City … (a) dichotomy (that) brings to life some unforgettable characters, displaying contemporary and unconventional attitudes towards sexuality and culture."

    Laudatory reviews on the website give Thompson high marks for her storytelling.

    "What a wonderful and exciting book!," wrote Donna Price of Salisbury. "I fell in love with Jamaica although I have never left the States. I could see the ocean, smell the food and see the beauty of Ms. Millie's birth place. I could feel her pain and rejoiced when she found happiness."

    Thompson, who lives in the Annapolis area, remains active as an educator. She is a distinguished professor of English on the faculty at nearby Bowie State University.

    In addition to her novel, she also recently published a children's book - "Children's Day," and is working on a collection of short stories as well as a possible sequel to "Bay Leaves."