Stanford jottings


... the gateway to a new world.

... the gateway to a new world.  

VISITING Stanford during a recent trip to the U.S. was the fulfilment of a long-cherished desire of mine.

Bordering Palo Alto and Silicon Valley, Stanford is less than an hour's drive from San Francisco, with its redwood forests and the beaches along the Pacific Ocean. But the sprawling campus, which at 8,180 acres is among the biggest in the U.S., also provides its own unique beauty.

Jane and Leland Stanford established the university in the memory of their only child, Leland Jr., who died of typhoid fever at 15. Within weeks of his death in 1884, the Stanfords determined that because they no longer could do anything for their own child, they would use their wealth to do something for "other people's" children. They settled on creating a great university, one that, from the outset, was untraditional; co-educational in a time when most private universities were all-male; non-denominational when most were associated with a religious organisation; and avowedly practical, producing "cultured and useful citizens" when most were concerned only with the former. Leland Stanford devoted to the university most of the fortune he had amassed. Included in the grant to the new university was the Stanfords' more than 8,000-acre Palo Alto Stock Farm used for the breeding and training of trotting horses and thoroughbred stock, 35 miles south of the family's San Francisco's residence. The campus still carries the nickname "the Farm".

On October 1, 1891, Stanford University opened its doors after six years of planning and building and became an instant university. The farm's open fields became the site of arcades and quadrangle. Stanford's first president, David Starr Jordan, wrote: "The yellow sandstone arches and cloisters, the `red-tiled roofs against the azure sky,' make a picture that can never be forgotten, itself an integral part of a Stanford education. It is an independent university. The words of Jordan on the university's opening day, to Stanford's pioneer class are worth remembering here — "It is for us as teachers and students in the university's first year to lay the foundations of a school which may last as long as human civilisation. It is hallowed by no traditions and is hampered by none."

There is, perhaps, no other university — national or international — for which a centennial represented a more interesting or profound opportunity. By virtue of its place in time, Stanford entered its Second Century just as the modern world prepared for its 21st. And by virtue of its geographic placement on America's Pacific Rim, Stanford found itself poised strategically between two worlds — East and West — and at the frontier between two disciplinary domains — technological and humanistic. If it can bridge both, Stanford can make a meaningful contribution to the resolution of some of the world's most vexing dilemmas.

Leland Stanford told the first class on opening day, "Remember that life is, above all, practical; that you are here to fit yourselves for a useful career."

Many people are drawn by Stanford's vibrant intellectual climate. Others are attracted by the idea of contributing to an organisation that is making a difference in the world. Still others are drawn by Stanford's role in the Silicon Valley — by what Fortune magazine referred to as "the intellectual incubator of the digital age". Bill Gates came to donate a new building. Queen Elizabeth came for lunch. And each year, some of the world's best and brightest young people come to learn from and work with world-class scholars and teachers. Talented new employees join the Stanford staff every week, supporting the university's mission of teaching and research through their roles as information systems specialists, scientific researchers, fund-raisers, financial analysts, health professionals, librarians, and more. Anyway you look at it, Stanford University is a diverse and lively workplace — where creative people come together to do challenging work and enjoy all the special benefits of a dynamic university.

THE motto of Stanford University: "Die Luft der Freiheit weht" is its unofficial one, and translates as "the wind of freedom blows". A German translation of a Latin text, the phrase is a quote from Ulrich von Hutten, a 16th Century humanist. Stanford's first president, David Starr Jordan, embraced the questioning, critical spirit of von Hutten's words and included them on his presidential seal.

The reach of Stanford is international and includes campuses throughout the world in Berlin, Florence, Kyoto, Moscow, Oxford, Paris and Santiago. Stanford's commitment to undergraduate education is virtually unrivalled among research universities.

Roughly five per cent of undergraduates and 30 per cent of graduate students are from outside the U.S. and Stanford has had international students among its student body for more than 100 years.

Stanford's 30 libraries hold 6.5 million books and journals, 64.7 million manuscripts, 198,000 maps and thousands of other materials.

Stanford University's Visitor Information Services welcomes more than 10,000 visitors to campus annually and provides information about the University and the surrounding areas.

Tours of two undergraduate residences are also offered.

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WE were in Stanford by 10 a.m. in order to join the one-hour campus walking tour. We assembled at the Visitor Information Services centre in Memorial Auditorium.

The Hoover Tower Observation Platform provides a panoramic view of the Stanford campus and the surrounding Bay Area. Among the many highlights visible from the 250-foot high platform are the San Mateo and Dumbarton Bridges and Maffett Federal Air Field. A tour guide on the platform is available to answer questions of the visitors. The tower lobby houses the Herbert Hoover and Lou Henry Hoover exhibit rooms which feature memorabilia from the careers and lives of the 31st U.S. President and his wife, both of whom were Stanford graduates.

The dominant architectural feature of the Main Quadrangle, Memorial Church was dedicated in 1903 in memory of Leland Stanford and has been non-sectarian since its inception. The most striking feature of the church is the brilliant mosaic covering the interior walls and depicting scenes from the Old Testament.

Stanford Shopping Centre is the San Francisco Bay Area's premier shopping and dining experience. It houses approximately 140 world class stores, restaurants and services. One of the few open air centres in the U.S., Stanford Shopping Center features spectacular, award winning gardens and picturesque sculptures by California artists. We enjoyed the European-style Street Market where the scents of gourmet coffees, fresh flowers and international cuisine filled the air. It also provides special merchant services such as currency exchange and package shipping to make the visit even more perfect.

It is a common sight to see students riding bicycles within the campus. Also, "Marguerite", a free shuttle operated by Stanford University, plies up and down, transporting University members and visitors up and down from one building to another. The shuttle runs every 15 minutes and also carries people from outside the nearby hotels (where several visitors to the University stay) and the Stanford shopping centre, to the university campus.

STANFORD's students work hard, and they play with equal energy and enthusiasm. From public service to performing arts, from intramural sports to student government, undergraduates take part in dozens of activities beyond the classroom.

Teaching, learning and research are part of a single enterprise at Stanford. Faculty and students alike embrace the numerous opportunities — in the classroom, the lab and the library — to merge education with scholarship. Stanford's current community of scholars includes 17 Nobel laureates, four Pulitzer Prize winners and 23 Macarthur Fellows. Stanford is particularly noted for its openness to interdisciplinary research, not only within its schools and departments but also in its laboratories, institutes and research centres ... .

Something that's truly laudable.

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