Pershing the Teacher

While at the university General Pershing taught mathematics, military science and tactics, fencing as well as being head of the military department. Pershing informed Chancellor Canfield that he was there to both teach and to learn. The school happened to be short of mathemativs instructors, so he volunteered to take classes in that field in addition to his other duties. (O'Connor)

He taught every school day for three hours "with as much success as he had with his cadets" remarked Chancellor Canfield. Interestingly, the Chancellor's daughter, Dorothy Canfield, stated that General Pershing taught math more like a military general than a professor. Another notable student of Pershing's was Willa Cather, Pershing was once quoted saying "I doubt that the study of mathematics gave either one of them a taste for literature." All in all, Pershing put as much effort as he did for anything in teaching mathematics and served the university the best he could. (Smith)

Despite Pershing's teaching methods being relentlessly military, according to student Alvin Johnson, he was still admired and liked by students. One student in particular liked Pershing, and for good reason. This student was struggling when called to the board with others to demonstrate a proof. The young student battled to answer the question, but even after several agonizing minutes he could not demonstrate the proof. Pershing told the young man to stay after class, the youth grew nervous. Pershing said gently to the youth, "all that kept you form working out that problem was your nervousness. I have marked you as though you had succeeded." This act of kindness and understanding formed a bond of shyness and the two quickly became friends. Pershing kept reinforcing the student's courage which finally gave him confidence. Pershing's support of the student led to a family's firm affection of the teacher. (Vandiver)