menu
William and Mary
search

Jefferson's Attempts at Change

While Jefferson's design to expand the College building was never realized, his efforts to reorganize the College's faculty and curriculum bore more fruit, although that endeavor, too, fell short of his goals.

By 1779 Jefferson, as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, had drafted a wide-ranging "Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge," which included provisions for the reform of the curriculum and governance of the College. On December 4, 1779, while action on the bill was pending, William & Mary's Board of Visitors, under the leadership of Jefferson—who was by then governor of Virginia as well as a member of the Board—adopted resolutions which were endorsed by the faculty and supported by the Reverend James Madison, the College president. These resolutions, which incorporated some, but not all, of Jefferson's plans for the College, came to be known as the Jeffersonian Reorganization.

The reorganization effectively abolished the College's grammar school and divinity school, and left the position of Indian School master vacant. Instruction in fine arts and the law of nature and nations was added to the teaching responsibilities of the professor of moral philosophy, and new professorships were created in anatomy and medicine, modern languages, and law and police. In addition, an elective system of studies was introduced—the first of its kind in the United States.

The College has changed a great deal since the days that Thomas Jefferson lived and studied in the Wren Building. Now, 5,700 undergraduates and 2,000 graduate students enjoy a broad array of degree options, ranging from law and marine science to education and English. But even after three centuries, today's College of William & Mary, like that of Jefferson's day, is committed to educating students who can serve their nation and the world in exemplary ways.