Jay Tompkins ’96, the only child of Ellen and John Tompkins, was born in Newport News, Va. He grew up along the banks of the James River where he learned to appreciate the beauty of nature at a young age. He attended public schools and later graduated from Christ School.
When he arrived at Warren Wilson, he fell in love with the mountains of Western N.C. His experience at the College enriched his life and influenced his future in many meaningful directions.
He majored in history, an interest that had begun early in his life. He had many wonderful opportunities at Warren Wilson, including his family and work experiences in Costa Rica. He treasured his work on the farm and his relationship with Mr. Laursen. Jay also developed true friendships at the College, many of which lasted throughout his life. He was a devoted family member, a loyal friend, and as one of his classmates observed, “a kind and gentle soul.”
Jay was a teacher, a tutor, and an educator in the broadest interpretation of the word. He had a passion for learning and grew to be fascinated by the history of Western N.C. He loved knowing about the people, their music and the life experiences that created their unique place in history.
“We are very grateful that the memorial in Jay’s name can contribute to others who share his love of Appalachian history and culture,” Jay’s parents say. “We sincerely thank Don Harris and the professors in the College’s global studies department. The establishment of this memorial could have not progressed without them. We so appreciate their commitment.”
Global studies professor Jeff Keith says the Jay Tompkins Appalachian History and Culture Collection will allow the College to maintain the strength of its library collection about life in the southern mountains. “For years to come, the Jay Tompkins Collection will prove a boon as we promote the study of our region, and it will help to assure that Warren Wilson College’s long and celebrated connection to Appalachian Studies will continue into the future.”