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Provost Rice at Founders' Day calls for strength in adversity
STANFORD -- Provost Condoleezza Rice called on community members to find renewed spirit and strength in adversity during a Founders' Day sermon on Sunday, March 6.
"Struggle and sorrow are not license to give way to self- doubt, self-pity and defeat," Rice told the Memorial Church congregation, "but rather an opportunity to draw out of difficulty a renewed spirit and strength to press on."
Only through struggle do human beings - and the institutions they build - "realize the depth of their resilience and understand that the hardest of blows can be survived," she said.
Jane Lathrop Stanford found such resilience, Rice said in her talk on "Jane Stanford: Spiritual Legacy as Struggle."
Drawing on her own personal experience, Rice said her mother's death taught her that she could find peace in the midst of pain.
Rice's mother developed cancer when Rice was 15 and died 15 years later.
For years, Rice said, "I feared her death in the abstract. . . . I could not fathom . . . how I could survive her death. But when she died - though I miss her to this very day more than I could have ever imagined - I did, nonetheless, find the strength to go on.
"And I understood for the very first time in my life something I had heard in church many many times: 'the peace that passeth all understanding.' "
The legacy of Leland and Jane Stanford was turning their sorrow to the benefit of others, she said.
Rice recounted that Jane Stanford kept the university open against most advice in the face of severe financial problems brought on by her husband's death.
Rather than simply trying to maintain a memorial to her husband and son, Rice said, Mrs. Stanford was then motivated by a strong sense of a greater good.
"From the great depths of her sorrow, Mrs. Stanford went on to save Stanford University for other people's children. Few of us are offered such dramatic and profound opportunities to do good for others out of our personal struggle," Rice said.
Struggle can be turned to the good of others only if "we can let go of the pain and the bad memories and the sense of unfairness - of Why me? - that inevitably accompanies deep personal turmoil."
Rice said that it was appropriate to pay homage to the Stanfords not just one day a year, "but in the way that we live each day, as we work to protect and strengthen this great university that was born of their spirit."
The provost noted that out of apparent concern over spiritual qualifications, Jane Stanford had left orders that the Founders' Day speaker should be an ordained minister.
"While I am not ordained," Rice told the congregation, "I am the daughter and granddaughter and . . . niece of ordained Presbyterian ministers. In deference to Mrs. Stanford I am calling upon that legacy and heritage today."
Later, during the University Public Worship Service, Acting Dean of the Chapel Diana Akiyama introduced to warm applause Rice's father, the Rev. John Rice.
Following the service, the provost and Akiyama joined about 125 community members in a procession to the Stanford Family Mausoleum.
There, brief remarks were made by Rice; Stanford Historical Society President Alberta Siegel, professor of psychology in the department of psychiatry; Alumni Association Director Bill Stone; and David Raymond, one of four senior class presidents. The Memorial Church Choir sang.
Representing the student body, Raymond, a communication major from Nebraska who aspires to be a major league sportscaster, talked about the Stanfords' vision of providing a practical education for young men and women.
The contributions of a century of graduates are for nothing "if they are not seen as contributions to the whole," Raymond said. He praised the altruistic intent of Stanford graduates, and the accomplishments that have grown out of their experiences at the university.
The 20-foot oak tree planted recently as a replacement for the 300-year-old oak that died last year "represents some of the future," Raymond said. "As it continues to grow, so should all of us."
In her remarks, Rice said she often tells students it is their job to find out what they are passionate about. As each student finds his or her passion, "we need to remember that it is to the glory of the Stanfords, and to the son for whom they founded this university, that that is made possible."
Senior class representatives placed a red-and-white floral wreath - jokingly referred to earlier by Stone as "like something from second place at Bay Meadows" - next to the mausoleum's front door. Akiyama closed the ceremony with a benediction, then visitors entered the mausoleum to view the sarcophagi of the founders and their teenage son.
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