Frederick Ferris Thompson was born in New York City on June 14, 1836. He was the son of John Thompson, a banker and native of Berkshire County. F. F. Thompson prepared for college at Peacham Academy in Peacham, Vt. He then attended Columbia, where he joined the Delta Psi fraternity. He later entered Williams in 1852 and founded the Lambda chapter of Delta Psi. Mr. Thompson left at the end of his sophomore year to conduct business for his father in Europe. He was later restored to his class and awarded an honorary M.A. degree in 1883. He wrote:
I was only a quondam member of ’56, of two years’ presence in college, and a thorn in the side of the faculty of that day. Good old President Mark Hopkins gave me a special graduation certificate afterwards, just to show that I was not kicked out of college, and I served my time in the war without any distinction. I was captain in the 37th New York Volunteers, which never saw a battle, and neither fought, bled, nor died. I made some money in the banking business and promptly gave it away to the college to which I owed the best years of my life.
Mr. Thompson started his career with his father and brother in the house of Thompson Brothers, then went on to the National Currency Bank. He was later one of the organizers of the First National Bank of New York.
F. F. Thompson is best known to Williams College for his generous philanthropy. His first gift to Williams was that of the clock tower on Lasell Gymnasium in 1886. The following year he purchased the Tallmadge Farm and gave the 40+ acres to the college. He was one of the largest contributors to the Hopkins Memorial Fund, established in 1888 to build Hopkins Hall. The Thompson Laboratories were donated in the early 1890s at a cost of $175,000. He also gave large sums of money towards general expenses, scholarships, and the annual Thompson Entertainments or Concerts. Frederick Ferris Thompson served as trustee of the college from 1886 until his death in 1899.