Pioneer Club

Profile of Jerry Compton

icon of a calendarMarch 13, 2020

icon of a pencilBy Joan Rosen

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Jerry Compton came to Oakland as a first-generation college student in 1960. His history with the University spans 45 years. That, in itself, is quite an accomplishment that demonstrates his commitment to the institution and his love of teaching.

He graduated with a bachelor's degree and a teaching certificate in chemistry in 1964 and continued to a master's degree which he received in 1966. He was one of four to receive the degree, the first master's degree awarded by Oakland. Actually, he was the first because, as he tells it, his name was the first of the four in the alphabet. He takes great pride in this accomplishment.

After graduation, he taught chemistry and physics at high school and mathematics in junior high school for a few years before returning to Oakland at the behest of Paul Tombulian, one of his mentors when he was an undergraduate and graduate student, who offered him the position of Chemistry Laboratory Manager. While performing that task he also taught courses at OCC (teaching is his first love), then night courses at Oakland, and in the 70s became an adjunct professor in the chemistry department, a position he held until his retirement in 2005. In 2003, Jerry won the award for Outstanding AP, and in 2004, he won the Teaching Excellence Award for Adjuncts, both a testimony to his skill in the classroom and the laboratory.

Working with students, finding ways to get them involved and interested, conducting experiments classroom demonstrations that they could see and relate to, always searching for innovative ways to connect with them, was his life's work. As Jerry hinted in his interview, it was not work, it was challenging and invigorating.

A man and a girl on a boat
Jerry and his granddaughter preparing to go sailing on Torch Lake —  an activity that he and grandkids love doing together. 


When Jerry retired in 2005, he and his wife moved to Northern Michigan — a respite from the metropolitan area. Even there, he could not give up his commitment to the classroom. From 2005 to 2016 he continued to teach at Northwest Michigan College, first part-time, and in 2010 he took on full-time faculty responsibilities.

The Comptons continue their support of OU. In 2017 they established the Jackie and Jerry Compton Scholarship for Chemistry and Biology to be awarded every other year to a student in chemistry and biology.

Jerry treasures his years at Oakland, particularly his interactions with both faculty and students. When he returns to Oakland County to visit his children he takes the time to go to a Grizzlies basketball game or to connect with faculty friends in the Department of Chemistry or on the indoor courts of Lepley.

The Pioneer Club is a formal group of OU retired faculty and staff who come together for social and educational activities. For more information, visit

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