Mentorships: A Selection From History

Until Millennials came along, one-on-one mentorships seemed to work just fine

Mentor: Socrates
Mentee: Plato

In the fifth century BC, philosopher Socrates relied on his mentee to write things down, including the Socratic dialogues, which offers such nuggets as “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Plato went on to found the Academy after his mentor drank the hemlock.

Mentor: Aristotle
Mentee: Alexander the Great

Before his assassination in 336 BC, Philip II of Macedon instructed philosopher Aristotle, “Take this son of mine and teach him the poems of Homer.” His son, Alexander, would later vanquish Persian armies and build an empire that would encompass much of the known world.

Mentor: Joseph Haydn
Mentee: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Haydn, the “Father of the Symphony,” is widely believed to have mentored young Mozart in late-18th-century Vienna. When Mozart died young, Haydn wrote, “If I could only impress on the soul of every friend of music, how inimitable are Mozart’s works, how profound, how musically intelligent, how extraordinarily sensitive!”

Mentor: Andrew Carnegie
Mentee: Charles M. Schwab

Schwab started as a messenger at Carnegie Steel in the late 19th century, when he endeared himself to the tycoon with his enchanting piano playing at a party. Carnegie appointed a 35-year-old Schwab as his successor in 1897. Schwab would later run Bethlehem Steel, the second-largest steel company in the world.

Mentor: Mary Alice Duncan
Mentee: Oprah

The media mogul credits her fourth-grade teacher for much of her success. Oprah teared up during the 1989 reunion on her show. “[Mrs. Duncan] often stayed after school to work with me,” she said, “helping me choose books and letting me grade her papers.”

Mentor: Larry Summers
Mentee: Sheryl Sandberg

As the Facebook chief operating officer’s economics professor and thesis adviser at Harvard, Summers helped Sandberg land jobs at the World Bank and the U.S. Department of the Treasury. When Summers was accused of sexism at Harvard in 2005, Sandberg leapt to his defense: “Larry has been a true advocate for women throughout his career.”

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