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Stanford University

For other meanings of Stanford, see Stanford (disambiguation).

The Leland Stanford Junior University, commonly known as Stanford University, is a privately funded American university in Stanford, California. Located approximately 35 miles southeast of San Francisco in an unincorporated part of Santa Clara County adjacent to the city of Palo Alto, Stanford lies at the heart of the Silicon Valley, both literally and historically. Situated on an expansive and picturesque campus in suburban California, Stanford University offers comprehensive undergraduate and graduate education programs as well as hosting a world-renowned medical center and a wide variety of research facilities and community outreach projects. Stanford is considered to be one of the most prestigious universities in the world [1], combining top-notch academics with winning athletic programs.



Stanford was founded by railroad magnate and California Governor Leland Stanford and his wife, Jane Stanford, and is named in honor of their deceased teenage son, Leland Stanford, Jr. Locals and university affiliates are known to refer to the school as The Farm, a nod to the institution's origins as a horse farm.

The University's founding grant was written on November 11, 1885, and accepted by the first Board of Trustees on November 14. The cornerstone was laid on May 14, 1887, and the University officially opened on October 1, 1891, to 559 students, with free tuition and fifteen faculty members, seven of whom hailed from Cornell University [2]. The school was established as a coeducational institution although it maintained a cap on female enrollment for many years and continues to have predominantly male enrollment in many strategic areas, such as engineering and computer science.

The official motto of Stanford University, selected by the Stanfords, is "Die Luft der Freiheit weht." When loosely translated from the Latin, by way of German, the quote from Ulrich von Hutten means "The wind of freedom blows." At the time of the school's establishment, German had recently replaced Latin as the dominant language of science and philosophy (a position it would hold until World War II).


Stanford University owns 8,180 acres (32 km2), making it the second-largest university complex in the world. The main campus is bounded by El Camino Real, Stanford Avenue, Junipero Serra Boulevard and Sand Hill Road, in the center of the Santa Clara Valley on the San Francisco Peninsula.

In the summer of 1886, when the campus was first being planned, Stanford brought the president of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Francis A. Walker, and prominent Boston landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted westward for consultations. Olmsted worked out the general concept for the campus and its buildings, rejecting a hillside site in favor of the more practical flatlands. Charles Allerton Coolidge then developed this concept in the style of his late mentor, Henry Hobson Richardson, in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, characterized by rectangular stone buildings linked by arcades of half-circle arches.

Much of this first construction was destroyed by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake but the University retains the Quad, the old Chemistry Building (which is currently unoccupied) and Encina Hall (reportedly the residence of John Steinbeck during his time at Stanford). After the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake inflicted further damage the University implemented a billion-dollar capital improvement plan to retrofit and renovate older buildings for new, up-to-date uses.

Many of the modern buildings were designed in the Spanish-colonial style common to California, with red tile roofs and white stucco exteriors, which gives the campus a uniform yet distinctly Californian look that many find aesthetically pleasingthe red tile roofs and bright blue skies common to the region are a famously complementary combination. The University has its own golf course and a seasonal lake (Lagunita), both home to the endangered California Tiger Salamander.

The off-campus Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve is a nature reserve owned by the university and used by wildlife biologists for research. Hopkins Marine Station , located in Pacific Grove, California, is a marine biology research center owned by the university since 1892.

Contemporary campus landmarks include the Stanford Quad and Memorial Church, the art museum and art gallery, the Stanford Mausoleum and the Angel of Grief, Hoover Tower, the Rodin sculpture garden, the Papua New Guinea sculpture garden, Green Library and the Dish. Frank Lloyd Wright's 1937 Hanna House , and the 1919 Lou Henry and Herbert Hoover House , are both National Historic Landmarks now on university grounds.


Besides the university, the Stanford trustees oversee Stanford Research Park, the Stanford Shopping Center, the Stanford University Museum of Art, Stanford University Medical Center and many associated medical facilities (including the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital ), as well as many acres of undeveloped foothills.

Other prominent Stanford-affiliated institutions include the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) and the Stanford Research Institute, a now-independent institution which originated at the University.

Stanford also houses the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, a major public policy think tank that attracts visiting scholars from around the world. The Stanford Institute for International Studies, which is dedicated to the more specific study of international relations, is also a notable institution.

The Stanford University Libraries hold a collection of more than eight million volumes. The main library in the SU library system is Green Library. Meyer Library holds the East Asia collection and the student-accessible media resources. Other significant collections include the Lane Medical Library, Jackson Business Library, Falconer Biology Library, Cubberley Education Library, Branner Earth Sciences Library, Swain Chemistry and Chem-E Library, Jonsson Government Documents collection, Crown Law Library, the Stanford Auxiliary Library (SAL), the SLAC Library, the Hoover library, the Marine Biology Library at Hopkins Marine Station and the University's special collections.

Digital libraries and text services include HighWire Press, the Humanities Digital Information Services group and the Media Microtext Center. Several academic departments and some residences also have their own libraries.

Stanford University student traditions include Full Moon on the Quad, the Sunday Flicks, steam-tunnelling and Primal Scream. Other old traditions, some of which have ended, include the Big Game bonfire at Lake Lag, the Halloween party at the Stanford family mausoleum and Viennese Ball.


Front View of Stanford University Quad

The University enrolls approximately 6,500 undergraduates and 7,300 grad students. Stanford has a reputation among students as being a relaxed, fun-loving, warm-weather alternative to the Ivy League schools of the east coast. The schools of the University include the School of Humanities and Sciences, School of Engineering, School of Earth Sciences , School of Education , Graduate School of Business, Stanford Law School and the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Admission is extremely competitive, and according to The Atlantic Monthly, it is the sixth-most selective college in the United States (after MIT, Princeton, Caltech, Yale and Harvard).

Stanford awards the following degrees: B.A., B.S., B.A.S. , M.A., M.S., Ph.D., D.M.A., Ed.D., Ed.S., M.D., M.B.A., J.D., J.S.D. , J.S.M. , LL.M., M.A.T. , M.F.A., M.L.S. , M.L.A. and ENG.

The University has approximately 1,700 faculty members, including 17 Nobel laureates and 23 MacArthur fellows. The largest part of the faculty (40 percent) are affiliated with the medical school, while a third serve in the School of Humanities and Sciences.

Stanford built its international reputation as the pioneering Silicon Valley institution through top programs in engineering and the sciences, and birthed companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Cisco Systems, Yahoo!, Google and Sun Microsystemsindeed, "Sun" originally stood for "Stanford University Network." The university also offers world-class programs in the humanities, particularly creative writing, history, government, economics and psychology.

University leadership

Angle view of Memorial Church

Stanford University is governed by a board of trustees, in conjuction with the university president and provosts and the deans of the various schools.


  1. David Starr Jordan (1891-1913)
  2. John Casper Branner (1913-1915)
  3. Ray Lyman Wilbur (1916-1943)
  4. Donald Bertrand Tresidder (1943-1948)
  5. J. E. Wallace Sterling (1949-1968)
  6. Kenneth Sanborn Pitzer (1968-1970)
  7. Richard Wall Lyman (1970-1980)
  8. Donald Kennedy (1980-1992)
  9. Gerhard Casper (1992-2000)
  10. John L. Hennessy (2000-present)


The position of Provost was created in 1952 during the Presidency of J. E. Wallace Sterling. Many people consider the Stanford Provost to be the "heir apparent" to the President because of the five men who succeeded Sterling as President, three were Provost of Stanford (Lyman, Kennedy, and Hennessy), one was Provost of the University of Chicago (Casper), while the other was President of Rice University (Pitzer). The Provost is the University's chief academic and budget officer. The Provost and the President together conduct Stanford's relationships with the neighboring community and other schools and organizations.

  1. Douglas M. Whitaker (1952-1955)
  2. Frederick E. Terman (1955-1965)
  3. Richard Wall Lyman (1967-1970)
  4. William F. Miller (1971-1978)
  5. Gerald J. Lieberman (1979-1979)
  6. Donald Kennedy (1979-1980)
  7. Albert M. Hastorf (1980-1984)
  8. James N. Rosse (1984-1992)
  9. Gerald J. Lieberman (1992-1993)
  10. Condoleezza Rice (1993-1999)
  11. John L. Hennessy (1999-2000)
  12. John W. Etchemendy (2000-present)

Notable Stanford alumni

Stanford's most famous alumni include U.S. President Herbert Hoover; Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, Anthony Kennedy, Stephen Breyer, and William Rehnquist; actress Jennifer Connelly; entrepreneur Charles Schwab; Hewlett-Packard cofounders Bill Hewlett and David Packard; author John Steinbeck; and athletes Tiger Woods, John Elway, and John McEnroe.

Academic leaders

Actors, film, and media


Entrepreneurs and business leaders

Literature and arts


Political leaders

Supreme Court Justices

Notable Stanford faculty and affiliates

Stanford athletics

Official Logo of Stanford Athletics

Stanford participates in the NCAA's Division I-A and forms part of the Pac-10 athletic conference. It also has membership in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation for indoor track (men and women), water polo (men and women), women's gymnastics, women's lacrosse, men's gymnastics, and men's volleyball. Stanford's traditional sports rival is Cal. Stanford has won the NACDA Director's Cup (formerly known as the Sears Cup) every year for the past ten years (the award has been offered the past eleven years), honoring the first-ranked collegiate athletic program in the United States.

Stanford offers 34 varsity sports (18 female, 15 male, one coed), 19 club sports and 37 intramural sports—about 800 students participate in intercollegiate sports. The University offers about 300 athletic scholarships.

The winner of the annual "Big Game" between the Cal and Stanford football teams gains custody of the Axe. Stanford's football team played in the first Rose Bowl in 1902, losing 49-0 to the University of Michigan. Stanford has played in 12 Rose Bowls, most recently in 2000.

Until 1930, Stanford did not have a "mascot" name for its athletic teams. In that year, the athletic department adopted the name "Indians" in response to the "Bears" name used by the Cal-Berkeley teams. In 1972, "Indians" was dropped after a complaint was lodged by American Indian students at Stanford, based on racial insensitivity. The Stanford sports teams are now officially referred to as the Stanford Cardinal (the bright red color, not the bird), but the band's mascot, "The Tree", is often mistaken as the school's mascot. Part of Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band (LSJUMB), the tree symbol derives from the El Palo Alto redwood tree on the Stanford and City of Palo Alto seals.

Stanford club sports

Club sports, while not officially a part of Stanford athletics, are numerous at Stanford. Teams include Archery, Badminton, Cricket, Cycling, Equestrian, Ice Hockey, Judo, Lacrosse, Polo, Rugby, Squash, Ski Team, Taekwondo, Triathlon and Ultimate Frisbee, and in some cases have historically performed quite well. For instance, the men's and women's Ultimate Frisbee teams won national championships in 2002 and 2003, respectively.

Notable Stanford athletes

Further reading

  • Stuart W. Leslie, The Cold War and American Science: The Military-Industrial-Academic Complex at MIT and Stanford, Columbia University Press 1994
  • Rebecca S. Lowen, R. S. Lowen, Creating the Cold War University: The Transformation of Stanford, University of California Press 1997

See also

Vintage Stanford University postcard

External links

University seal and S-tree images © Stanford University

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