In Memoriam

Ferris "Tommy" Thomsen -1931-2012

Professor Emeritus
Ferris "Tommy" Thomsen
In Memoriam: Ferris "Tommy" Thomsen

When Thomsen arrived at Denison in 1965 as a physical education instructor and head wrestling and lacrosse coach, he started recruiting student athletes from the East—from places like Virginia, Maryland, and New York—eventually taking the Denison team to a number of championships in the Midwest Lacrosse Association and later, in the North Coast Athletic Conference. Thomsen compiled a 261 to 94 win/loss record during his 25 years at Denison. He was one of only three active college lacrosse coaches in the U.S. with more than 200 victories when he retired in 1990 as coach and assistant professor.

But Thomsen was more than teacher and a coach. In the 1970s, he took over the operation of Camp Deerwood, a boys’ camp in New Hampshire founded by his parents in 1945.  Thomsen would spend the academic year in Granville teaching and coaching, and his summers in New Hampshire helping campers “build character and friendships.” In addition, he counseled students and athletes at Denison on everything from academic struggles to girlfriend problems to homesickness, and according to Ted Barclay, professor emeritus and former Denison soccer coach, Thomsen’s ability to listen to the students and help them sort through those problems kept a few from leaving Denison entirely. “He would rally them to be better students and athletes,” says Barclay.

Thomsen expected a lot of his players and of himself. Born with a congenital spinal condition, he fought through his own physical handicap to play for his university team at Penn, where he was a goalkeeper and captain of lacrosse team while earning his bachelor’s degree. The UPenn team took home a few of its own championships during Thomsen’s time.

Thomsen was a past president of the Lacrosse Coaches Association, a member of the National Athletic Association and Riles and Tournament Committee and a member of the executive board of the United States International Lacrosse Association. He served as a faculty adviser to Omicron Delta Kappa, Denison’s leadership honorary society. He was also named an honorary member of the Centurion Lacrosse Club of England, which administers the Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

Thomsen died on Jan. 2, 2012, at the age of 80. Survivors include his wife, Ann, their four children, and nine grandchildren,

In June, Camp Deerwood will hold a memorial service for him, and on April 21, during the annual Denison-Kenyon lacrosse game, the first Thomsen-Heiser trophy will be awarded to the games’ winner to honor the memories of Tommy Thomsen and long-time Kenyon coach Bill Heiser.

Published April 2012