Thursday, July 31, 2008

A faded gingham dress and a homespun threadbare suit

I’m not sure how many of you have heard Malcolm Forbes’s version of our university’s founding but it’s certainly new to me. A little lengthy, it goes like this (taken from

A lady in a faded gingham dress and her husband, dressed in a homespun threadbare suit, stepped off the train in Boston, and walked timidly without an appointment into the Harvard University President’s outer office. The secretary could tell in a moment that such backwoods, country hicks had no business at Harvard & probably didn’t even deserve to be in Cambridge.
“We’d like to see the president,” the man said softly.
“He’ll be busy all day,” the secretary snapped.
“We’ll wait,” the lady replied.
For hours the secretary ignored them, hoping that the couple would finally become discouraged and go away. They didn’t, and the secretary grew frustrated and finally decided to disturb the president, even though it was a chore she always regretted.
“Maybe if you see them for a few minutes, they’ll leave,” she said to him.
He sighed in exasperation and nodded. Someone of his importance obviously didn’t have the time to spend with them, and he detested gingham dresses and homespun suits cluttering up his outer office. The president, stern faced and with dignity, strutted toward the couple.
The lady told him, “We had a son who attended Harvard for one year. He loved Harvard. He was happy here. But about a year ago, he was accidentally killed. My husband and I would like to erect a memorial to him, somewhere on campus.”
The president wasn’t touched. He was shocked. “Madam,” he said, gruffly, “we can’t put up a statue for every person who attended Harvard and died. If we did, this place would look like a cemetery.”
“Oh, no,” the lady explained quickly. “We don’t want to erect a statue. We thought we would like to give a building to Harvard.”
The president rolled his eyes. He glanced at the gingham dress and homespun suit, then exclaimed, “A building! Do you have any earthly idea how much a building costs? We have over seven and a half million dollars in the physical buildings here at Harvard.”
For a moment the lady was silent. The president was pleased. Maybe he could get rid of them now.
The lady turned to her husband and said quietly, “Is that all it cost to start a university? Why don’t we just start our own? “
Her husband nodded. The president’s face wilted in confusion and bewilderment.
Mr. and Mrs. Leland Stanford got up and walked away, traveling to Palo Alto, California where they established the university that bears their name, Stanford University, a memorial to a son that Harvard no longer cared about.
You can easily judge the character of others by how they treat those who they think can do nothing for them. —-
A TRUE STORY By Malcolm Forbes.

Of course, with the not-so-light summer reading on Stanford’s history that we’ve been given, we should easily recognize this story as a myth, merely demonstrative of the arrogance of one Ivy League school. Consequently, I was a bit surprised to see the rather serious efforts that Stanford makes to dispel this myth on the school website—there’s a full section under “Stanford University History” devoted to it, which clarifies Leland Stanford Jr. having never attended Harvard nor ever being “accidentally killed.”

Looking into the popularity of this legend, I found that many websites note its truth, which has sparked other websites to assist in dispelling the myth. Apparently the tale first made its appearance on the Internet in 1998 as a story to warn against making appearance-based judgements, rather than as a factual account of Stanford’s founding. Also, the story is attributed to Malcolm Forbes, founder and publisher of Forbes magazine, who died in 1990. According to one site, “Obviously, the hoaxer was seeking to authenticate the fabricated tale by putting a well-known person’s name as the author.”

How interesting that a “don’t judge a book by its cover” story would implicate the “misfortunes” of our own university founders!


Monday, July 28, 2008

Some interesting things about Stanford's history

So even though Stanford was founded co-ed, there was a limit on female enrollment till 1933 by Jane Stanford because she did not want it to be called the "Vassar of the west".
Between and 1933, there was a policy in place limiting female enrollment to 500 students and maintaining a ratio of three males for every one female student. By the late 1960s the "ratio" was about 2:1 for undergraduates and much more skewed at the graduate level, except in the humanities. As of 2005, undergraduate enrollment is split nearly evenly between the sexes, but male enrollees outnumber female enrollees about 2:1 at the graduate level.
(from wikipedia)

After the 500 rule was lifted, the number of women on campus increased greatly, which increased demand in sororities, but the number of sororities did not change. Moreover, sororities were much stricter back then, requiring women to sign out and inform when they would be back. Behavioral issues increased and some women asked for sororities to be banned so that women could be unified.

In 1944, the board of trusties banned sororities but not fraternities. In the late 1970s, students demanded that the University allow sororities back on campus. The resurgence in sorority interest was partly due to Title IX, which was passed in 1972 and prevented inequality in education. As a result, the ban on sororities was lifted in 1977, but Sororities did not regain housing for another 20 years.

Here is the Stanford Daily article on it-

Thursday, July 24, 2008

New Parking Structure

I went back to campus the other day to check my mail (I had, with an extreme lack of foresight, instructed people to send me packages there) and I walked across Wilbur field. It was awesome. The field, on top of a newly-created underground parking structure, replaces the old Wilbur field that none of us ever got to see or use.

I had been anticipating the completion of this project the entire year--not only was I excited to have a field outside of my dorm (of course, I don't live there anymore) but the project seemed to be an extremely efficient use of space. Both field space and parking are needed in that area, especially with the construction of the Munger residences, and this allows for both of them to be there at once.

I heard at some point that the underground structure cost 3x as much as a similar above-ground structure, but unfortunately I can't find the source to back that claim up. But I did find some cool information about the project. I saw a PowerPoint Presentation entitled, "The Green Roof on Stanford: Parking Structure Six"--google 'stanford parking structure six green' and it will be your first entry--that describes how the roof works. There are a number of
elaborate drain systems to ensure that the garage doesn't flood if it rains/when the sprinklers turn on (which, as we all know, happens about every three minutes). The entire field is also slightly sloped to also help drainage and support.

You can also see a bunch of pictures of the project at If I had a car on campus, I would totally park it there.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Wender & Co. vs. HIV

Sorry about not posing until now, everyone! I've been out-of-the-country, but I'm now back in the States, and finally have free internet access.

I'll dedicate my first post to summarizing a research done recently by Stanford professor Paul Wender and his research group. I remember spring quarter when, upon logging onto a computer at Green library, I saw Dr. Wender's face headlining the Stanford website. Back then, I was so swamped with worrying about chemistry in my own life that I avoided interacting with chemistry at all costs when I didn't have to. Now that I'm finally free from the shackles that was chemistry, I have attempted to read up on Wender and his Co's accomplishments.

HIV, perhaps one of the most deadly and infamous diseases known to man, has consumed more than 25 million lives in the past 25 years. The virus can cause AIDS upon transfer of bodily fluids between two or more people, and often attacks helper-T cells of the human immune system. In the past, scientists have encountered trouble dealing with HIV when it enters the helper T cells for refuge. There, the virus could remain dormant for years, before resurfacing to cause more pain and damage to its human victim. This is where Wender comes in.

Wender and his Co. have discovered a way to synthesize prostratin and DPP . Prostratin and DPP, which occur naturally in plants, have shown potential to activate dormant HIV, forcing the virus to become vulnerable to antiviral attack. Unfortunately, these useful compounds have been difficult to obtain in large quantities, and have been resistant to essential structural modifications given their natural origin - that is, until Stanford chemists successfully synthesized the compounds in their laboratory. With the newfound knowledge and ability to synthesize prostratin and DPP, their full therapeutic potentials could finally be reached through molecular and chemical engineering. In the near future, these compounds could play a monumental role in eradicating HIV, AND they could be easily accessible to anyone in need.

Whether or not you like chemistry, you gotta appreciate all that researchers like Wender are doing to better and save human lives. ;) If you'd like detailed report, feel free to visit Hope everyone is having a wonderful summer thus far! Can't wait 'til early Sept~


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Stanford athletes in the Olympic trials!

I know this happened a while ago, but I was reading the Stanford magazine and saw the huge numbers of current and former Stanford athletes that were participating in the Olympic trials and wanted to learn more about it:

For a full list of the Stanford athletes in the trials, look in the most recent issue of Stanford magazine or see

After seeing the large amount of press they were getting, and as a former swimmer myself, I was especially interested in the Stanford swimmers at the trials.

The swimming trials took place in Omaha, Nebraska, and the results are pretty extensively documented on, where I got this information. Ben Wildman-Tobriner, who just graduated from Stanford, was the only Stanford male to qualify for the Olympics at this year’s Trials after he placed second in the 50 free. 12 other men competed in the Trials, with several advancing to the finals of their events. The women were even more successful than the men, with two swimmers heading to Beijing. Two juniors, Elaine Breeden and Julia Smit (not to be confused with fellow Stanford swimmer Julie Smith ‘11, who I don’t believe competed). Breeden won the 200 butterfly and got second in the 100 fly at the Trials! Julia Smit placed third in the 200 free and the 400 IM (individual medley), and will be part of the 4 x 200 freestyle relay in Beijing and possibly the 4 x 100 free relay. A total of 10 Stanford women competed in the Trials.

In fact, Breeden and Smit make Stanford the only college program in the country with two female swimmers going to the Olympics this year!

There’s a great article here: on the Go Stanford site that does a great job of explaining the impressive legacy of Stanford women’s swimming and gives the results from all the women at the Trials.

If any of you also get the Stanford magazine at home, or want to check it out on the website above, there was a great article following up with several Stanford alums who are planning on going to the Olympics this year and chronicling their injuries, setbacks, and comebacks.

Be sure to keep an eye out for Stanford athletes in all sports as you watch the Olympics this August!


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

"Pests" on campus

So I found an article online that was written in 1993 about the vermin on campus which lists the following -

Ants, bees, cockroaches, flies, birds, bats. cats, coyotes, possums, raccoons, rodents, squirrels, skunks and snakes..

There are attracted to the campus mostly because of the steady supply of edible garbage.

Many years back, bats roosted in the roof of Meyer library and regularly entered the library. 

I found this really fascinating and now am even more excited to meet the campus pest control guy!

- Shruti

Saturday, July 12, 2008

While perusing the Stanford Alumni website, I came across two special alumni awards that I hadn’t ever heard of because their names are unique to Stanford. The first is the “Degree of Uncommon Man and Uncommon Woman Award.” Created in 1953, this award is presented to “those men and women who have rendered unique and outstanding service to the University.” Its ‘uncommon’ name comes from a statement made by Stanford’s own Herbert Hoover: “We believe in equal opportunity for all but we know that this includes the opportunity to rise to leadership in other words, to be uncommon.” Though the award is not given at determined intervals, some of its recipients include Lloyd Dinkelspiel (Posthumous), Frederick Terman, and Cecil Green. (Sounds like you too could be the next recipient if a library or auditorium is built in your name.)

The second award I thought was interesting, primarily for its name’s history, is the “Gold Spike Award,” given to alumni who display “exceptional volunteer leadership service in development for Stanford.” It was created in 1969, exactly a century after the original gold spike—which lends the award its name—was driven by Senator Leland Stanford at Promontory, Utah, joining the Central Pacific and Union Pacific rails and connecting the nation’s East and West coasts. That gold spike is 17.6 karat gold with “The Last Spike” engraved on its head. It is on display at Cantor so go have a look!


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Hey guys,

Sorry it took me so long for me to post... I've been vacationing in Europe (London, Paris) and just got back...

Seeing the amazing churches in Europe inspired me to look up some information on our very own MemChu. I just finished reading a really great book on Google Scholar (I'd recommend using this site to look up cool Stanford info) called Stanford Memorial Church: The Mosaics, The Windows, The Inscriptions by Willis Hall and learned some really interesting facts.

The most interesting aspect to read about was definitely the mosaics that adorn the museum's front facade. At the time that it was complete, the mosaic was the largest in America! It was designed by Antonio Salvati, a famous Venetian artist, and the tiny tiles that, when pieced together form the images, were pieced together by Lorenzo Zampato (it took him 4 years!) One of the walls is a mosaic reproduction of Soimo Roselli’s Last Supper from the Sistine Chapel in Rome. It is the only copy ever permitted to be made of this famous mosaic. Interestingly, Jane Stanford herself was responsible for a large part of the building project, and her influence is felt in that there are far more depictions of women throughout the church than in most churches. Finally, it makes perfect sense for the fa├žade to be in mosaic, because, unlike a painting, the colors of the tiles are unfaded by weather conditions. I’ll definitely see MemChu from a different perspective after reading this book…

-Alex Fialho

Can and will Lake Lag ever be filled?

Students have wanted Lake Lag to be, well, a lake, for years now, especially when then hear stories from old alumni who used to be able to windsurf there!  

It seems that a few years ago some students started a petition which said:

To: President John Hennessy
 Stanford University Touts its on campus lake, hereafter referred to as "Lake Lagunita," as one of the many amenities available to to students and affiliates of Stanford University.  We, the undersigned, find this particularly misleading: it is a fact that Lake Lagunita has not been filled for at least two full years now.  Prospective Freshmen, hereafter referred to as "Prospectofros," have a right to know that the campus they are considering does not actually have any discernable body of water other than the oft-mentioned fountains which so delight the hearts of all.  Many official documents, including the application and website, mention the nonexistent lake, and it is high time that somebody points out this egregious misrepresentation to both Prospectofros and the campus at large.  There is no lake.  There hasn't been for quite some time.  It has been whispered that there may never again be a lake. This is very disturbing, but the undersigned do believe that there is a solution.  There are two ways to correct the current misrepresentation: destroy all mention of Lake Lagunita in future documents, or fill the lake an fulfill the promise of the University to countless generations of students.  We believe that Lake Lag should be restored to its former glory- if a few bacteria-ridden fountains can bring the campus so much joy, imagine the joy that an entire lake riddled with diseases and students from all walks of life will bring?  The collective spiritual health of the University demands that the lake be filled, lest we continue to perpetuate a pervasive aura of dishonesty and iniquity that stems from the crushing weight of the vast emptiness that is the giant ditch behind Roble Hall.  Return legitimacy to the West Lag name and restore Stanford University to the proud institution that it once was by filling the lake once and for all!

The Undersigned

President Hennessy's Response:

Dear Mr. Kanard:

Thank you for your e-mail of February 25, 2005.  I appreciate you and the members of the Coalition to Fill Lake Lag (CFLL) taking time to share your concerns regarding the water level at Lake Lagunita.  As I am sure you are aware, Lagunita is filled by winter rains and runoff from the foothills; therefore, insufficient seasonal rainfall may cause the lake to go unfilled.  In fact, the online Introduction to Stanford Guided Tour and other web sites openly state this information.

Stanford University shares the CFLL's enthusiastic interest in nurturing the collective spiritual health of the university.  Your concern for Prospectofros, also known as ProFros, is especially commendable.  Because university resources are currently directed toward other important projects and initiatives, the CFLL may wish to consider encouraging Prospectofros and other Lagunita visitors to B.Y.O.H2O.  In this way, Lagunita visitors desiring a full lake will be able to personally and collectively participate in restoring  the pride of Stanford University.

Thank you again for sharing your concerns, and for your well-written petition.


John L. Hennessy

There had been rumors that the lake couldn't be filled due to the threatened species of tiger salamanders that dwell there but apparently the real reason is that the dam is not considered safe.  Now the lake was semi full this year but how hard would it be to fix the dam?  President Hennessy said that they are using university resources for other projects but perhaps an enthusiastic group of alumni would be willing to donate time and money to repair the dam...I guess there used to be a boathouse out there...if the dam could be repaired and the boathouse rebuilt, maybe there can be ANOTHER Arillaga building on campus :)  
Anyways, maybe I'm bias toward west campus after living there last year and again next year and was ecstatic when the lake was a semi swamp instead of just a barren meteor scar, but legitimately full would be amazing.

Here are some article from the daily on the subject too:

Ok sorry for the long post but I'll be out of town for the next few weeks and this has been on my mind :)


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Marguerite

Hey guys! Sorry its taken me so long to post! I was on the Marguerite website last week trying to figure out how I could get to campus (I had to work softball camps) and I found some interesting information about the history of the Marguerite.

The Marguerite has been around since the beginning of the University, and the form of transportation has just changed throughout the times. In the 1880s, Leland Stanford himself ran a horse and buggy service, seating 12 people, from the train station across to El Camino Real. In 1909, the horse and buggy was replaced with electric streetcars. In 1929, the streetcar tracks were removed when El Camino was widened, and a private bus service took over the route. The city of Palo Alto decided to subsidize the bus' cost in 1963, and by 1973 Stanford expanded the services to include free service around campus in addition to the train station and downtown Palo Alto. Also, the Marguerite is named after the horse that pulled the carriage of "Uncle John" Andrews, shuttling people from Palo Alto to Stanford. Apparently, Marguerite was Andrew's favorite horse! :)

I don't know about you guys, but I love the Marguerite, especially since I didn't have a car this past year!

Here's the link to the site I found this information from:

Hope everybody's enjoying summer!