Monday, September 9, 2013

Jotthe Kannappan: What would Jane and Leland Sr. think?

During our conversation with President Hennessey this past Tuesday, I asked him what his favorite Stanford memory was. The President mentioned that he had many, but one of the ones that stood out was listening to a graduate student from Mongolia giving a speech about her Stanford experience. He said he remembered her saying "I imagine Jane and Leland sitting in the audience, astonished that a student from across the globe came to their university."

Over the past few days, we have been repeatedly reminded of the caliber, opportunity, and excellency that Stanford embodies. It's easy to forget in those moments exactly where Stanford started. It was a university, often called a country club, that was laughed at and demeaned. Entertainingly, the established University of California system looked down on our humble beginnings and were amused by the idea that Stanford might someday become a world-class university.

Yet, so many years later, here we are. Nobody can argue that Leland Sr. and Jane didn't get their way. They have provided the best education for thousands of sons and daughters of California, the United States, and the world at large. Stanford worked it's way up from the bottom, and has fought its way to success after many years of trials and tribulations. That in itself makes me prouder to be a student at this university than almost anything else.

Anyway, the reason I mention humble beginnings is to put in perspective exactly what Leland Sr. and Jane would think if they saw how far their university has come. Yesterday, as we were sitting at a tailgate for the first football game of the season, I saw generations of Stanford graduates, and many of their children. I saw successful students, bright young toddlers, wiser heavyweights, people from all walks of the world. What do they all have in common? A deep, strong passion for everything that Stanford is and has been. Taking in that sight, I couldn't help but imagine how astonished Leland and Jane would have felt looking out into their generations of adopted posterity.

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