Mary Clark was born to Zilpha Watkins and Myron Holley Clark in 1835 on a Naples, New York farm. The family moved to Canandaigua in 1837. Mary attended the Ontario Female Seminary. Young Mary met Frederick Ferris Thompson in 1856 at an Albany event hosted by her father, who had been elected New York State Governor two years earlier. The couple was married in Canandaigua on June 17, 1857.
Mrs. Thompson spent much time in travel throughout the world. She divided her time at home between the family’s New York City residence, their large estate, Sonnenberg in Canandaigua, N.Y. and later the old property of Millford at Pinewood, S.C. At Canandaigua, she built and equipped a hospital in memory of her husband and contributed to many other projects. Her benefactions in New York City were many. She served as a trustee of Teachers College and of the Woman’s Hospital, of which she was a vice president.
After her husband’s death in 1899, Mary Clark Thompson continued his legacy to Williams College. In 1903, she had the Thompson Memorial Chapel built in his memory. She also funded the Thompson Infirmary, now Thompson Hall, built in 1911. The Williams Club, founded by her nephew Clark Williams, was given a permanent home when she donated a building for its use.
The resolutions adopted by the president and the trustees of Williams College, in 1923, show clearly her enrichment of the college:
In the death of Mrs. Mary Clark Thompson on July 28th, 1923, we realize the loss of one whose name has become linked with the traditions of Williams college and whose memory is cherished with gratitude and affection by the hundreds of men who as undergraduates or alumni have experienced in their own lives the happiness which she has been instrumental in creating.
Through the medium of the Thompson Scholarships she brought a college education within reach of many a youth who otherwise could not have enjoyed that privilege.
The entire academic community in Williamstown for nearly a quarter of a century has found relaxation and enjoyment in the annual winter course of entertainments she provided.
In the Thompson Memorial Chapel she erected upon this campus a building appropriate and inspiring as a center of religious activity and a fitting monument to her husband, whose affection for his Alma Mater was manifested repeatedly by his generous gifts and abiding devotion to the welfare of Williams.
In other ways Mrs. Thompson here gave expression of her ardent enthusiasm for the advancement of learning.
She made possible the closer association of the alumni by placing at the disposal of the Williams Club in New York City, a club house under circumstances which were most efficacious in stimulation the growth and activities of that organization on behalf of the college.