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Geoffrey “Jeff” Acheson Thompson

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution announces with great sorrow the death of Trustee and Life Trustee Geoffrey “Jeff” Acheson Thompson on August 3 at his home in Lyme, CT, from complications of heart surgery.  He was 79. He was surrounded by family including his wife of 54 years, Claudia, his daughter Marina Cummins, son-in-law James, granddaughters Lila and Louisa, brothers Jonathan and Kimberley, sister Kathy McCurdy and brother-in-law John.

He was a devoted husband, father, and grandfather and respected Wall Street executive, full of warmth, humor, and generosity.

Born on October 26, 1940, in White Plains, NY, to Julia (Acheson) and Fred D. Thompson, Jeff was the eldest of five siblings. As a child, he lived in Chappaqua and Montreal but primarily grew up in Central Valley, NY. He attended high school at Deerfield Academy and at 16 spent a memorable year in the Australian outback working on a sheep station with his brother Jonathan.

Jeff graduated from Columbia University in 1963, where he majored in history, served in the United States Navy from 1963 to 1965, and received an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1967.

Jeff had an enterprising spirit and often joked that he’d held seventy- two jobs in his life, from waiting tables to driving taxis. He started his professional life at Newsweek, as International Circulation Director, but transitioned in 1970 to banking, where he spent the bulk of his career.

He held positions growing in rank and responsibility at AG Becker and Citicorp, then joined GE Capital in 1978 as General Manager and Vice-President for their consumer finance business. In 1981 he went to work for Marine Midland Bank and was appointed President and CEO from 1985-1990. He stayed on as CEO after the company was acquired by HSBC and served on the HSBC board for eight years.

He later worked in the executive search business and in private equity, first at Kohlberg & Company and later as a private investor.

Jeff served on multiple corporate boards, including THOR Industries, The Guardian Trust Company, and The Credit Store. Jeff also believed in the importance of giving back and dedicated himself to several charitable organizations over the years including the Near East Foundation, a family enterprise, where he served as Chairman; the American Federation for Aging Research as Vice-Chair; the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution as Trustee and Executive Committee Member; and The American Red Cross of New York as Vice-Chair.

Jeff loved to sail, and was a long-time member of the New York Yacht Club. He captained many boats throughout his life and many of his fondest memories were adventures at sea on trips to Maine, Nova Scotia, and around the world. Stories of close calls and full-on-disasters were told with gusto and great enjoyment throughout his life.

Most of all, Jeff delighted in family. He and Claudia married in St. Louis in 1966 and spent 54 happy years together. They had an extensive group of wonderful friends in both Manhattan and Lyme, regularly embarked on international travel adventures, and challenged each other with their opposing political views. They were a couple many people commented were a beacon of consistency, commitment, and great partnership.

Jeff was a doting and generous father to their daughter Marina and loving grandfather to Lila and Louisa. He relished in preserving family history and each Christmas would regale the table with stories and scandals of prior generations and was very focused, especially in his later years, on bringing extended family together to create new memories. Jeff was alternately serious and irreverent, speaking honestly about death or controversial issues one minute, and teasing the next. He was never shy about his opinions and observations and delighted in arguing politics, business, and the arts. Jeff was quick with a smile and always offered a calming and rational presence. We will always remember his sharp intellect, sound judgment, and unwavering generosity and integrity. He will be greatly missed.

Information for this obituary is from