UPDATE Aug. 31, 2017 — A memorial service will be held in NMH's Memorial Chapel on Sept. 23 at 11 am, followed by a reception at Bolger House. Memorial donations may be made to the William R. Compton Scholarship Fund at Northfield Mount Hermon or to Anatolia College.
Aug. 23, 2017 — The Northfield Mount Hermon community mourns the passing of William R. (“Bill”) Compton ’44, who died Aug. 22 at age 89. Plans for a memorial service are pending.
Bill Compton’s NMH career spanned more than 35 years. He was well known to generations of students and alumni as a history and religious studies teacher, dorm parent, head of the summer school, director of co-curricular programs, college counselor, dean, and director of studies.
“It was an honor to get to know Bill these past five years, and it's clear that the entire Compton family didn't fall far from this fine tree,” said Peter Fayroian, head of school. “Bill's affection for this school was evident in his remarkable attendance record at recent NMH events and gatherings, and evident at each were his humility, wisdom, and grace. His legacy at NMH includes several thoughtful essays on topics including coeducation, the merger, and religious life — documents I reference often and have found helpful and poignant. Bill's fingerprints are, as the expression goes, all over this place.”
Having graduated from Mount Hermon in 1944, Compton attended Oberlin College, then came to Mount Hermon in 1948. He left in 1951 to pursue graduate study at Columbia, returning in 1957. For the next thirty-five years, he held many posts at the school. In addition to teaching religious studies and history, Compton served as director of research, dean of the Mount Hermon Center (as the campus was known immediately following coeducation), dorm parent, college counselor, director of studies (academic dean), and promoter of all things outdoors. He was perhaps best known as director of the summer school, a post he held for 17 years before his retirement in 1992.
Compton stayed in touch with former students as the Class of 1962’s “class teacher,” and was affiliated with several other NMH classes.
The depth and breadth of Compton’s NMH connections are also reflected in the list of his surviving relatives. They include his sons, Robert ’78, and Richard ’68, and his daughter, former NMH trustee Elizabeth “Betsy” Compton ’72. He is also survived by his sister, Esther Miseroy ’48, and grandchildren, Rose Spurgin ’00, Henry Compton ’06, and Martha Compton ’03. He was predeceased in 2012 by his wife, Mary Compton ’44, a much admired, can-do NMH administrator and Bill’s partner in life and work.
Compton’s impact on the NMH community is equally vivid in the minds of those who worked with him. Retired NMH mathematics teacher Dick Peller, for example, was Compton’s friend for more than 45 years. “He was honest, fair, and of high and impeccable character. Bill was quiet, self-effacing, modest, and gentle,” said Peller. “He was one of the most intelligent people I have known, able to speak with confidence and accuracy on many subjects. Even late in life, his memory remained strong, and I loved sitting with him and listening to him tell stories of Mount Hermon and its students and faculty in the 1950s and ’60s. A light has gone out in the school's firmament; Bill was a true lamplighter."