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Trustees approve $4.2 million contemplative center for Windhover paintings

Trustees, who gathered in nearby Monterey for their April meeting and retreat, gave concept and site approval for a center that will display the work of the late Nathan Oliveira. They also gave project and partial construction approval to plans to convert the campus steam distribution system to hot water. In addition, trustees heard presentations on undergraduate education and The Stanford Challenge.

Leo Holub Nathan Oliveira in front of the 'Windhover' diptych

Nathan Oliveira, photographed in 1986 by his friend and Stanford lecturer Leo Holub, stands in front of the 'Windhover' diptych in Oliveira's studio in the Stanford Hills.

The Stanford University Board of Trustees has taken the first step toward fulfilling Nathan Oliveira's dream of creating a campus center where people could rest in quiet reflection while viewing his large paintings inspired by birds in flight.

At its April 15-17 meeting, trustees gave concept and site approval to the $4.2 million Windhover Contemplative Center, which will display four large oil paintings in the late Stanford art professor's Windhover series.

Oliveira began working on the series in the 1970s, and returned again and again to the paintings during a lifetime of art.

In a 2002 interview in Stanford magazine, Oliveira said, "I've always thought if I had wings, I could fly. Well, I do have wings in my mind . . . and these paintings are like a catalyst that can take you wherever you want your mind to fly."

The set of paintings, which includes a 32-foot-wide diptych of feathered wings, reflects Oliveira's fascination with the kestrels and red-tailed hawks he saw while walking in the hills – one of his rottweilers at his side – around Stanford's Dish.

"We saw photographs of the paintings, which are beautiful," said Leslie Hume, chair of the Board of Trustees. "The Stanford Historical Society published an interesting article about Oliveira and the Windhover series in Sandstone & Tile last fall, so I've read about the origins of the paintings. They will be wonderful to have at Stanford."

In the Sandstone & Tile interview, Oliveira said he envisioned a place for his paintings where people could "sit, meditate and reflect on themselves." He said he hoped people would be able to sit and watch the paintings change as the light changed and "distract themselves from whatever is bothering them."

Oliveira, who taught at Stanford for three decades, was an internationally acclaimed artist. He retired from teaching in 1995. He died in late 2010 at 81.

Under preliminary plans approved by trustees, the Windhover Contemplative Center will be a one-story, 4,000-square-foot building located on the corner of Santa Teresa Street and Lomita Drive, west of the Papua New Guinea Sculpture Garden.

The proposal calls for a center that will provide a refuge from the daily intensity of life on campus – a place to re-establish balance and find tranquility.

The center, whose front entry will face Santa Teresa Street, will include an exhibit space and an outdoor gathering area.

The project is expected to return to trustees for design approval in October 2012, with project approval in December 2012 and construction approval in June 2013. Preliminary plans call for the center to open in the summer of 2014.

Stanford Energy System Innovations

Trustees gave project and partial construction approval to convert the campus steam distribution system to hot water and to convert buildings to use hot water instead of steam as a heat source.

The new distribution piping system is part of the $438 million Stanford Energy System Innovations (SESI) project, a comprehensive plan designed to meet Stanford's energy needs through 2050.

The board gave concept approval to SESI in 2011 and approved sites for the new central energy facility and the electrical substation at its February meeting.

Under SESI, Stanford will buy electricity via direct access to the energy market; build a new central energy facility that recovers waste heat from the campus chilled water system to meet the bulk of campus heating needs; convert the existing central steam system to a more efficient hot water system; build a new and expanded electrical substation; and, eventually, decommission and demolish the aging Cardinal Cogeneration plant and the existing electrical substation.

The SESI project is the largest component of Stanford's Energy and Climate Plan. The major components of the plan will return to the board for approval later this year and into 2015.

Board retreat

Every year, trustees hold a retreat in which they focus on one or two topics. This year, they held their retreat in Monterey, where they focused on Stanford's vision for undergraduate education and on The Stanford Challenge. They also visited Stanford's Hopkins Marine Station in nearby Pacific Grove.

"The marine station has been part of Stanford since 1892, but to our knowledge the trustees have never visited Hopkins," Hume said. "When we arrived, Stephen Palumbi, director of Hopkins, welcomed us, saying, 'We've been waiting for you a long time.'"

Hume said the marine research center, the third oldest in the nation, is a Stanford gem.

"It is a place that integrates teaching and research in a very exciting way," she said.

In addition to hearing a presentation by Palumbi, who is the Harold A. Miller Professor in Marine Sciences, trustees listened to three graduate students talk about their research. They also toured the lab of Barbara Block, the Charles & Elizabeth Prothro Professor in Marine Sciences, who is known for her research on tuna.

Presentation on undergraduate education

Trustees also heard a presentation about Stanford's vision for undergraduate education – prompted by the January release of the Study of Undergraduate Education at Stanford (SUES)– from Harry J. Elam Jr., vice provost for undergraduate education, and Martha Cyert, senior associate vice provost for undergraduate education.

They also listened to a faculty panel address the topic. The panelists were:

  • Russell Berman, the Walter A. Haas Professor in the Humanities, a professor of comparative literature and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution
  • Susan Holmes, a professor of statistics and director of the Mathematical and               Computer Science Interdisciplinary Program
  • Caroline Hoxby, the Scott and Donya Bommer Professor in the School of               Humanities and Sciences and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

In March, the Faculty Senate approved replacing the three-quarter Introduction to the Humanities sequence with a one-quarter "Thinking Matters" course, and strongly encouraged freshmen to take seminars offered under the Stanford Introductory Seminars Program.

"Harry and Martha walked us through, in some depth, all the different aspects of the SUES Report, as well as the programs and initiatives that he's introduced since becoming the vice provost for undergraduate education in 2010," Hume said.

Presentation on The Stanford Challenge

Hume said the board had a great discussion on The Stanford Challenge, the five-year campaign that raised $6.2 billion to seek solutions to global problems and educate leaders for a more complex world. The campaign, which concluded in February, focused on university-wide initiatives on the environment, human health, international affairs, K–12 education, the arts, and graduate and undergraduate education.

"It was the board's opportunity to step back and look at the success of The Stanford Challenge, both quantitatively and qualitatively," she said.

Trustees heard presentations on the campaign from Martin Shell, vice president for development; Roberta Katz, associate vice president for strategic planning; and Pamela Matson, dean of the School of Earth Sciences who also was one of the leaders of the campaign's Environment and Sustainability Initiative.