"No teacher of my time so completely identified herself with the interests and hopes and worries and pleasures of her students."
The transformative power of an effective teacher is something almost all of us have experienced and understand on a personal level. A great teacher can create great value in our world. Robert Jackson understood this. It was in large part due to the guidance of Mary Willard that Jackson honed a love of literature and writing. He met Mary Willard during his post-graduate year at Jamestown High School.
During the winter of 1910, “little Bob”, as Jackson was called by Mary Willard and her sister Vesta, spent many evenings reading and reciting Shakespeare (and other great works of literature) before the fireplace at the Willard sister’s home in Jamestown. Jackson biographer and St. John’s University law professor John Q. Barrett recently wrote a Jackson List post about Mary Willard.
“People ask how Robert H. Jackson, from humble origins and lacking higher education, became one of the finest writers in American public life, U.S. Supreme Court history, international relations and maybe generally. My answers are that he had natural talents, sufficient resources, a love of learning, special teachers, and drive. And that he read—thanks to Mary Willard and others, he read, savored, recited, memorized and thus, in his speaking and writing, consciously and unconsciously, emulated great works.”
The Center’s exhibit, Say, I Taught Thee: The Life of Mary R. Willard will be on display through October 2015. An important part of the exhibit is the collection of mentoring stories from visitors to the Center. Visitors are asked, “Who is your Mary Willard?” Mary Willard had a simple, profound faith in the abilities of Robert H. Jackson. We have collected a number of mentor stories from visitors. The stories have different narratives, but the “Mary Willards” all have one thing in common – faith in the person they inspired.
This is the value of the teacher, who looks at a face and says there’s something behind that and I want to reach that person, I want to influence that person, I want to encourage that person, I want to enrich, I want to call out that person who is behind that face, behind that color, behind that language, behind that tradition, behind that culture. I believe you can do it. I know what was done for me.
The Jackson Center’s Education Initiative seeks to expand the knowledge and legacy of Justice Jackson into classrooms around the region, country, and world. The Education Initiative provides outreach and programming throughout the year as well as educator development with semi-annual teacher workshops and an annual fellowship program. The Center realizes the impact Mary Willard had on Robert Jackson. She educated and inspired the young Bob Jackson and changed his life. The Center’s Youth Education Initiative honors and aids educators who are committed to teaching Jackson’s legacy, and recognizing and developing talent, thus enabling students to become more than they previously thought possible.
Below you will find some of the stories of mentors that the Center has collected over the last year.