[I] then went to Wm. and Mary college, to wit in the spring of 1760, where I continued 2. years. It was my great good fortune, and what probably fixed the destinies of my life that Dr. Wm. Small of Scotland was then professor of Mathematics, a man profound in most of the useful branches of science, with a happy talent of communication, correct and gentlemanly manners, & an enlarged & liberal mind. He, most happily for me, became soon attached to me & made me his daily companion when not engaged in the school; and from his conversation I got my first views of the expansion of science & of the system of things in which we are placed.
Source: Autobiography, 1821
(This link is to the entire volume. To find this passage, open the link, type Ctrl F (for find) and type several words from the text into the box. Those words will be highlighted wherever they appear within the work.)
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders-to-be need skilled mentors.
Jefferson was almost 17 when he continued his education in college at Williamsburg. He came into the orbit of Dr. William Small, the only faculty member who was not an Anglican clergyman. Because of upheaval within the school, Small became Jefferson’s only professor, teaching all of his classes.
Sixty years later, Jefferson would cite the qualities that made Small extraordinary:
- “Profound,” which Webster’s 7th New Collegiate defines as “intellectual depth and insight”
- Devoted to the “useful branches of science,” wisdom relevant to everyday life
- “a happy talent for communication,” an engaging and effective classroom teacher
- “correct and gentlemanly manners,” proper and polite
- “an enlarged and liberal mind,” willing to consider all the possibilities
- “made me his daily companion,” taking young Jefferson under his wing
- “from his conversation,” verbal interaction with a high purpose
I’ve begun re-reading Jefferson’s Autobiography. I may take posts from it for some time.
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The Moral Liberal Thomas Jefferson Editor, Patrick Lee, is a professional speaker, actor and writer. Since 1990, he has inspired, entertained and educated audiences from Maine to Hawaii with his authentic, first person leadership presentations as President Thomas Jefferson, Frontiersman Daniel Boone, and Lewis & Clark Co-Leader William Clark. He also appears as himself, The Hopeful Humorist™, with a program of motivational humor, patriotism and inspiration.