Clay Jenkinson brings the Rhodes Scholarship experience to campus

Each year the James Marsh Professors-at-large Program brings outstanding professors to UVM to speak with and enlighten students on topics ranging from the humanities to the sciences. The program is named for James Marsh, UVM’s fifth president, and focuses on enriching the educational lives of students. Marsh professors have a love for learning that they wish to share and this holds true for professor Clay Jenkinson. “People like Clay are saying this [humanities] is not just for the classroom but for our everyday cultural experience,” Associate Dean of the Honors College Lisa Schnell said. Jenkinson is a successful author, cultural commentator and a leader in the field of public humanities, as well as being the nation’s top historical interpreter of Thomas Jefferson. Jenkinson interprets Jefferson on his radio show, “The Thomas Jefferson Hour,” which airs weekly. Although he is accomplished, Jenkinson stays modest and thankful for his time at UVM. “I first came here as a Marsh Scholar four years ago and it’s as great an honor to me as being a Rhodes Scholar; I love it,” Jenkinson said. Prior to all of his current success, Jenkinson had the experience of a lifetime at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. The Rhodes Scholarship is an international fellowship that gives students from around the world an opportunity to study at Oxford for two or three years.For most, including Jenkinson, it is a life-changing experience. “Nobody deserves to have three free years at Oxford; it’s a gift,” Jenkinson said, as he began to describe his time as a Rhodes Scholar. While most would regard winning the scholarship as impossible, Jenkinson argued otherwise. “The University of Vermont is a perfect institution to produce Rhodes Scholars,” he said. “I am a living example that anybody — and I mean anybody — can win the scholarship if they are willing to pay the price academically.” Students listened to Jenkinson’s stories of Oxford, and the immense passion and devotion he expressed for reading and literature. “The reading I did at Oxford was so deep; it has changed my knowledge for life,” Jenkinson said. This love of reading is something he says that he gives priority in passing onto the next generation of learners, his family and University students alike. “I tell my daughter all the time — the most interesting people you will ever meet are the ones who have done deep fundamental reading,” he said. When asked by one student, “How would you define being a scholar?” Jenkinson said: “Being a scholar is different from being a good student; there are a lot of good students. Scholars have a vocation for learning.” Despite Jenkinson’s amazing stories of exploring London and losing himself in books, he remains remarkably grounded. “I am the most fortunate person in the world, I think,” he said.