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Trustees elect alumna Leslie P. Hume president of board

L.A. Cicero Leslie P. Hume

Leslie P. Hume

BY KATHLEEN SULLIVAN

When Trustee Leslie P. Hume walks up the steps toward Memorial Court, a smooth plaque carved in a column of rough-hewn sandstone at its entrance often catches her eye.

It's the kind of thing a historian—Hume has a PhD in history—would notice.

"Memorial Arch," the plaque says. "To the memory of Leland Stanford Junior. Born to mortality, May 14th, 1868. Passed to immortality, March 13th, 1884. Erected by his mother, 1899."

That mother, of course, was Jane Stanford, who founded the university with her husband, Leland Stanford, in 1885, and saved it from closing when his untimely death in 1893—only two years after the university opened for classes—threw the fledgling institution into a severe financial crisis.

In 1903, Jane Stanford became president of the university's board of trustees, and until recently, she was the only woman who had held the post.

That changed earlier this month when the board chose Hume as president, or "chair," as the position is informally known at Stanford.

Hume, who joined the board in December 2000, will begin her two-year term in July, the board announced at its April 7-8 meeting.

She succeeds Burt McMurtry, who has held the post for four years.

McMurtry, a private investor who co-founded several venture capital partnerships, will leave the board at the end of June after having served 11 years.

"I could not be more pleased about the quality of this board, and about the board's selection of Leslie Hume to be my successor," McMurtry said.

The board, which currently has 33 members, is the custodian of the university's $17 billion endowment and all of its properties. Trustees administer invested funds, set the annual budget and determine policies for the operation and control of the university.

In a recent interview on campus, where Hume was attending the biannual meeting of the Humanities and Sciences Council, an advisory group to the School of Humanities and Sciences, she spoke in awe of Jane Stanford's courage, vision and determination to establish the university, even in the face of devastating personal loss.

Asked about being the second woman elected chair of the board, Hume attributed the accomplishment, in part, to "being in the right place at the right time."

"There are so many women who have served on this board who could have chaired anything they wanted," she said. "Stanford has never lacked for talented women."

Currently, Hume is chair of the board's Development Committee. Previously, she chaired the Academic Planning, Policy and Management Committee.

"I'm so fortunate to have the team of John Hennessy and John Etchemendy to work with," she said. "My colleagues on the board are smart and capable, bring a variety of expertise to the board, and we all share an incredible love for and commitment to this university."

If Hume were to produce a resume of her volunteer activities for Stanford, the entries would date back nearly 20 years, beginning with her membership on the advisory board of the Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research, a position she still holds. The institute's current focus is women and gender in science, engineering, technology and mathematics.

Hume first became involved with the institute, which was founded in 1974 as the Center for Research on Women, while studying for her doctorate. She was one of six women, including three senior female faculty members, who taught a course on the history of women in 19th-century England, France and the United States.

Hume has taken leadership roles in fundraising campaigns at Stanford.

Hume and her husband, former Trustee George Hume, JD/MBA '75, were vice chairs of the Campaign for Undergraduate Education, and she is now involved in the university's most ambitious campaign to date, The Stanford Challenge.

The mission of The Stanford Challenge is to build a university for the 21st century and beyond—a university that will better serve the world through the quality, impact and vision of its research, and through a new generation of leaders it will educate. The campus-wide effort involves several multidisciplinary initiatives focusing on the arts and creativity, the environment and sustainability, human health, international affairs and K-12 education.

Hume is a member of the Stanford Challenge Executive Committee, the Stanford Challenge Leadership Council and, reflecting her longtime interest in education and the arts, the Arts Initiative Advisory Council.

This week, both Hennessy and Hume, along with other top university officials and faculty members, are in Hong Kong for "Leading Matters," a program designed to showcase how Stanford is addressing some of the world's biggest challenges. It is the first overseas stop of the three-year tour, which will hold events in 17 cities, including Chicago, London and Mexico City.

Hume said she is committed to "delivering on the promise" of The Stanford Challenge.

"It's not about the money we've raised," she said. "It's what we want to do with that money that's important."