Archive for the ‘Best of’ Category

Stanford president honors veterans

November 11th, 2013

Each year for the past few years, Stanford has honored its veterans by placing floral wreaths in Memorial Court and in Memorial Auditorium on Veterans Day. The arrangements include a letter from university President JOHN HENNESSY.


Zani Nesvacil, a U.S Marine veteran of Desert Storm, stops to read a message from President John Hennessy placed with a wreath in Memorial Court on Veterans Day.



The day the Duck dynasty fell at Stanford

November 8th, 2013
Members of the Stanford Axe committee and the Stanford Band perform during the noon rally.

Members of the Stanford Axe Committee and the Stanford Band perform during the noon rally.

The excitement for the gridiron faceoff between the Stanford Cardinal and the Oregon Ducks on Nov. 7 grew during a noon rally in White Plaza and then continued to climb through the evening game. Cardinal fans cheered the team to a 26-20 victory over the previously undefeated Ducks. Photographers LINDA CICERO and AARON KEHOE  captured some of the festivities in this slideshow.

Haas Center and Stanford Bookstore collaboration seeks gently used laptops

November 7th, 2013 Amat Amat

A laptop donation program inspired by a Stanford alum makes it possible for high school seniors at Mission High School in San Francisco to have a laptop when they head off to college.

The recipients are participants in the Athletic Scholars Advancement Program (ASAP), an independent, nonprofit, year-round program, which aims to get more low-income students into college and help them succeed once they are there. ASAP currently serves 350 Mission High students involved in athletics, either as players or supporters.

In a partnership with the Stanford Bookstore and the Haas Center for Public Service, Stanford community members can now drop off laptops that are no more than five years old at the Bookstore. As an added incentive, the Bookstore is offering donors a discount on the donor’s next purchase.

Since it was founded in 2004, ASAP has helped more than 800 students attend summer enrichment programs on college campuses. Most ASAP students are from low-income backgrounds, and 60 percent are English-language learners. Ninety-seven percent are the first in their families to attend college.

The donation program was launched in 2011, when ASAP Executive Director LIZ BUTLER STEYER, ’86, ’91, learned that teacher laptops at her daughter’s private school were given away after three years. Steyer approached the school about contributing the computers to ASAP, and the program received its first eight laptops.

Two years later, VIVIAN WONG, ’12, working as a Stanford Public Interest Network fellow at ASAP, was asked to find a stable source of computers. Wong and Steyer thought of their alma mater and approached JEFF DEUTSCH, Stanford Bookstore’s director of stores, about institutionalizing the donation program to help low-income college students and, at same time, reduce e-waste.

Mission High School seniors who wish to receive a donated laptop apply by writing an essay on how it will contribute to their college success. Once they have a donated laptop, it is theirs to keep. Wong described one student who emphasized in her essay how having a laptop would make it easier for her to stay in touch with her support network as she adjusts to her new college life thousands of miles away in Pennsylvania.

ERIC GUTHERTZ, Mission High’s principal, emphasizes that for his students, college “acceptance and enrollment are only half the battle.” While he praises ASAP for its phenomenal work in creating a college-bound culture at Mission High School, he adds that the laptop donation program means that students are equipped with “the technology needed to access the full college academic experience.”

Any laptop donated to the program must be privately owned, five years old or younger, in working condition and Internet-capable. Donating a laptop is completely free and tax-deductible. Since all data must be wiped from the device before it is donated, donors can download the free DBAN software to wipe the laptop memory.

For more information about donating a laptop, contact SHELLEY HUGHES at or (650) 329-1217, ext. 375.

—LAURA MONKMAN, Haas Center for Public Service


Stanford historian wins prize for work at intersection of history, technology

November 4th, 2013

Historian Thomas Mullaney has been awarded the Abbott Payson Usher Prize by the Society for the History of Technology for his research and writing on the Chinese typewriter.

THOMAS MULLANEY, associate professor of history at Stanford, has been awarded the Abbott Payson Usher Prize by the Society for the History of Technology.

The annual prize, established in 1961, honors scholarly work in history and technology and was awarded to Mullaney for his article “The Moveable Typewriter: How Chinese Typists Developed Predictive Text during the Height of Maoism.” Published in the October 2012 issue of Technology and Culture, the article explores how the Chinese typewriter was a precursor to predictive text technology.

Fittingly, Mullaney was in Shanghai when he received an email announcing the award, which he says caught him completely by surprise.

“I am deeply honored and thankful to the committee for selecting my work,” said Mullaney, who became fascinated with the Chinese typewriter five years ago while writing a paper about now-obsolete Chinese characters.

The original Chinese typewriter, with close to 2,500 characters, was often mocked for being cumbersome and slow. However, as Mullaney learned, the demands placed on typists during the Maoist regime to more efficiently produce propaganda materials led to a reconfiguration of how the type was organized.

Mullaney came to realize that the new machines were capable of something like an early version of predictive text by using “natural-language clusters” – groups of characters found in commonly used phrases.

The search for information about this technological advance took Mullaney to archives and collections in China.

“I had compiled a great many materials that described and made reference to a new experimental technique of laying out the characters on a Chinese typewriter,” Mullaney said. But it wasn’t until he discovered two original Chinese machines in a small private collection in Switzerland that the project really coalesced.

Finding those typewriters “confirmed my working theory unmistakably,” Mullaney said.

“To see people write about what I call ‘predictive text’ Chinese typewriters was one thing,” Mullaney recalled, “but to see them up close – to touch them, to spend countless hours analyzing the photographs, trying to reconstruct the logic by which they were made – the memory of that still takes my breath away.”

—VERONICA MARIAN, The Humanities at Stanford

“You Can Play” video designed to create a safe space for all athletes

October 29th, 2013

As a basketball player, TONI KOKENIS witnessed firsthand how toxic the culture of varsity sports can be for gay, lesbian and transgender athletes. Kokenis recounted instances where athletes have used the word “gay” as a synonym for stupid or uncool or as a way to characterize their opponents as inferior.

“People will say it in a joking manner, but we need to create an atmosphere where everyone understands that’s not OK,” Kokenis told TRES PITTMAN, who wrote an article about Kokenis’ experience for the Clayman Institute’s Gender News.

To help create a more open environment for athletes at Stanford, Kokenis and three colleagues founded Stanford Athletes and Allies Together (StAAT), which works to ensure that there is a safe space to discuss issues about gender identity, gender expression and sexual nonconformity as they relate to athletes.

In its first year, StAAT has hosted several group meetings to discuss current events on campus and athlete-specific issues.  They also collaborated with Safe and Open Spaces at Stanford (SOSAS) to host a panel at the monthly coaches meeting where LGBT athletes spoke to coaches about how to be strong allies. Working with those in power, Kokenis said, is the most important and effective way to ensure that their message receives the attention and credit it deserves.

The culmination of the organization’s first year has been its You Can Play video, a public service announcement created to convey the group’s message that “if you can play, you can play.” The video features 30 coaches and athletes, including Athletic Director BERNARD MUIR and head basketball coach TARA VANDERVEER. Kokenis said that the diversity of the group, with almost every varsity sport represented, conveys the solidarity behind StAAT and its ethic of acceptance.

Read Pittman’s story on the Gender News website.



‘Dear future me’: The Class of ’08 gets unexpected mail

October 18th, 2013

Alexis Smith, ’08, included a graduation gift in her letter to herself.

This deep into the Digital Era, getting a handwritten letter is a rare experience for anyone, never mind 27-year-olds whose whole lives have been steeped in high-tech communication.

But what made the recent mailings from Stanford to the Class of 2008 truly exceptional wasn’t the penmanship, it was who penned them: The alums themselves, way back during New Student Orientation, so long ago most had forgotten they’d ever written them.

“Woke up this morning to find a letter I wrote to myself in 2004,” JENNIFER MOONYOUNG CHO, who’s now involved in a startup in Seoul, South Korea, posted on Facebook. “Craaaaaazaaaaaaaay?!”

“Just received this letter from 18-year-old @DeanWallace,” wrote Dean Wallace, a congressional staffer in Washington, D.C. “I feel a little anxious about opening it. … I might let this one sit a while.”

The surprise deliveries were the result of best-laid plans going slightly awry nine years earlier. In 2004, then-Dean of Freshmen JULIE LYTHCOTT-HAIMS, ’89, was looking for new ways to engage arriving students. An assistant mentioned writing a letter to himself during a psychology class. Thus was born a new activity: Write a letter to your future self at graduation, which is when the missives would be returned.

The logistical burdens of the enterprise didn’t fully sink in until administrators found themselves with 1,600 handwritten letters. It wasn’t just a question of where to put this batch – it was the realization that if they made the assignment yearly, they would soon be buried. Perhaps above all, it was the epiphany of how hard it was going to be to return such a volume during the blur of graduation. In other words, it was pretty much a no-brainer to pull the plug on repeating the exercise, Lythcott-Haims said.

But there remained the matter of returning letters already written. As predicted, the Class of ’08 had other things on its mind when graduation came around. Students were contacted to pick up letters, including at Senior Dinner on the Quad, but hundreds of them remained unclaimed. Eventually, they went back into storage, out of sight, out of mind.

But not totally forgotten. This year, with the class’s five-year reunion looming, the languishing 773 letters were turned over to the Alumni Association, whose staff began tracking down far-flung authors.

Not all of the young alumni cared to hear from their old selves. A few even asked the Alumni Association to shred the sealed envelopes rather than send them on.

But for others, like ALEXANDRA PINTCHOUK, the letters were as welcome as they were unexpected. On the day she got hers, Pintchouk, a former Stanford gymnast, rode the elevator to her apartment just staring at the envelope, before closing her bedroom and opening it in private.

The results were a mix of light and heavy. Now in her second year at Harvard Business School, Pintchouk is taking a class on developing leadership, one that requires reflecting on life experiences and values to discern one’s future. In that spirit, she was struck by the eloquence of her young self, who espoused a credo almost tailored for someone in her current position: considering many paths, trying to separate expectations from callings.

“Do what your heart tells you and have no regrets,” she wrote in 2004. “Whatever happens and whoever you meet, stay true to who you are, be yourself, be ‘Pinch.’”

There were also touches of youth, including a rash of exclamation points and a now-mysterious desire to get through freshman year with only “a few breakdowns,” a wish that makes Pintchouk laugh, wondering what dread she thought lay ahead. And with the levity and wisdom, there was also solemnity.

Only after reading the letter several times did she notice the small “RIP” on the bottom of the second page, a note in honor of a friend who had died two years earlier. It was the aspect of the letter that most made the past present, collapsing the years. “That brought back a whole wave of emotions,” she says.

For others, the contents were a reminder that teenagers in their first week of college freedom aren’t always the most introspective beings. BRIAN INOUYE opened up his letter to find four sentences, one of them documenting his dislike for discussion groups, written in the scrawl that befits someone who is now a doctor.

“It made me a little upset I didn’t take it more seriously,” he says, laughing. “But then again, how – at the time – could you possibly even think about that?”

But even for him, there were a couple jewels: Seeing the names of two dormmates he’d lost touch with flushed back memories of how close they’d once been, prompting him to reach out on Facebook.

ALEXIS SMITH, who now works in marketing for Facebook, was concerned she might have filled the page with sentimental sap. And so she burst out laughing when a dollar bill fell out of the envelope, apparently an intended graduation present.

Her letter was lighthearted, filled with the kind of small details that bring back big memories: the number of suitcases she brought to campus (three, including the big red one); the rawness of her throat from singing the Larkin cheer (spelled out for posterity) and of meeting her first jocks (not a feature at her small, Catholic high school). She also included a reminder to thank her parents for helping fold her clothes.

She was a mix of feelings those days. “Feeling confident. Feeling anxious,” she wrote in back-to-back sentences. Reading them nine years later, she was closer to delight. Far better to receive the letter now, she says, than at graduation when it would have barely registered. Even better with reunion beckoning.

“It’s a treasured time capsule,” she says. The letter is on her refrigerator.


—SAM SCOTT, Stanford magazine


Four alums to be inducted into the Multicultural Hall of Fame

October 18th, 2013

The founder of a microlending site, a senior adviser to President Obama, a former Stanford admission dean and vice provost for student affairs, and a physician and community health educator will be recognized tonight as part of Stanford’s Reunion Homecoming Weekend.

Every year, Stanford’s four ethnic community centers – the Asian American Activities Center, the Black Community Services Center, El Centro Chicano and the Native American Cultural Center – each select an accomplished alum for induction into the Multicultural Alumni Hall of Fame.

This year’s inductees and the centers that chose them are:

Jachowski  pic

Maile Apau Jachowski

MAILE APAU JACHOWSKI, ’81, MD ’87, physician, educator, community health and fitness advocate, who was selected by the Native American Cultural Center;

VALERIE B. JARRETT, ’78, senior adviser to President Barack Obama, who was selected by the Black Community Services Center;

JAMES MONTOYA, ’75, AM ’78, vice president for higher education at the College Board, who was selected by El Centro Chicano; and

PREMAL SHAH, ’98, co-founder and president of, who was nominated by the Asian American Activities Center.

Valerie Jarrett

Valerie Jarrett

Shah graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics. According to the Multicultural Alumni Hall of Fame website, he came up with the concept of “Internet microfinance” while working at PayPal. In 2004, he took a short leave of absence from his job to test out his concept in India. Kiva today raises more than $1 million each week for the working poor in more than 60 countries.

Jarrett, who holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Stanford, is a senior adviser to President Barack Obama as well as the chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls.

Prior to joining the Obama administration, Jarrett, a lawyer, was the chief executive officer of The Habitat Company. She also served as co-chair of the Obama-Biden Presidential Transition Team, and senior adviser to Obama’s presidential campaign. She has held positions in the public and private sector, including chairman of the Chicago Transit Board, commissioner of planning and development for the City of Chicago, and deputy chief of staff for Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Montoya is well known for his work in creating greater educational opportunity and access for students nationally and internationally. Before going to work for the College Board, Montoya served as dean of admission and financial aid at Stanford and later as vice provost for student affairs.

A native of San Jose, Montoya earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and a master’s degree in administration and policy analysis from the Graduate School of Education (GSE). At his undergraduate commencement, in 1975, he received the Lloyd W. Dinkelspiel Award in recognition of his scholarly achievements and his outstanding contributions to undergraduate education at Stanford.

James Montoya

James Montoya

Montoya has served on the board of the Stanford Alumni Association and on the Stanford Athletics Board. He has served as a lecturer through the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity. Currently, he serves on the GSE Advisory Council.

Apau Jachowski received her bachelor’s degree in biology from Stanford in 1981 and graduated from the School of Medicine in 1987. She completed her pediatric residency at Stanford in 1990.

Premal Shah

Premal Shah

In 1997, she founded a solo pediatric private practice in Maui. In 2003, she moved to the Washington, D.C., area and took a sabbatical to pursue a second passion: teaching. She taught biology in a public high school for a time, and in 2006 returned to medical practice as a civilian pediatrician at Andrews Air Force Base. In addition, she was appointed assistant professor of pediatrics at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, F. Edward Hebert School of Medicine in Bethesda, Md. In 2008, she became medical director of her alma mater, Kamehameha Schools.

A multi-certified personal fitness trainer and group exercise instructor, she founded NativeFit, a preventive medicine initiative focused on developing practical approaches to preventing obesity-associated diseases through culturally based fitness activities and public education. Jachowski is married to DOUGLAS JACHOWSKI, ’81, MS ’87, and has five children (Stanford classes of ’07, ’09, ’10, ’14, ’15).

The inductees will be honored at a reception this evening.


The Stanford Band is celebrating its 50th anniversary as a scatter band. Now that’ll be a party!

October 14th, 2013
Stanford Band

Hundreds of past and present Stanford Band members will gather at Reunion Homecoming Weekend to mark the group’s 50th anniversary as a scatter band. (Photo: Yanessa Lasley)

Past and present members of the STANFORD BAND, officially known as the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band (LSJUMB), will celebrate the group’s 50th anniversary as a “scatter band” at the upcoming Reunion Homecoming Weekend.

What does it mean to be a scatter band? Well, LSJUMB doesn’t march when performing at, for instance, halftime shows of football games. Instead, members run from scripted formation to formation, essentially scattering and then reforming. There are many scatter bands throughout the nation, and many, like LSJUMB, also are known for irreverent humor.

Members of LSJUMB will celebrate the milestone anniversary with a panel discussion recounting the history of the band, a banquet and a football halftime show that will include hundreds of participants.

The panel discussion will take place during Reunion Homecoming from 4:15 to 5:45 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17, in Dinkelspiel Auditorium. The event is cosponsored by the Stanford Historical Society.

JOHN MANNION, Class of ’89 and a former band manager, will moderate the discussion. Among the featured panelists will be ARTHUR BARNES, professor emeritus of music and the band director when the group created its distinctive performance style.

A 1997 Stanford magazine profile of Barnes, written when he retired, suggests he was “blessed with perfect pitch and a talent for turning a deaf ear to sophomoric student antics.”

Barnes saw it all, beginning with the notorious 1970 Stanford-Arkansas football game performance, in which members dropped their pants to reveal surfer shorts. During Barnes’ tenure, women were admitted to the ranks, the once obscure rock song “All Right Now” was adopted as a band mainstay and the group played a memorable rendition of “Rule Britannia” for a visiting Queen Elizabeth II that ended with “Go, Queen!” Barnes arranged more than 300 songs for the band, including the stirring national anthem still played at the beginning of home football games today.

Speaking of football games, hundreds of present and past members of LSJUMB will perform together during halftime at the Reunion Homecoming football game against UCLA that kicks off at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19, Stanford Stadium.


Mark Z. Jacobson talks green energy with David Letterman

October 12th, 2013



Who knew DAVID LETTERMAN had installed geothermal heat pumps under his house?

On Oct. 9, the Late Night talk show host discussed his green retrofit with MARK Z. JACOBSON, professor of civil and environmental engineering and senior fellow with the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. The two had a wide-ranging conversation centered on studies Jacobson has led showing the feasibility of converting global, national and state energy infrastructures to all-renewable sources.

“There’s no technological or economic limitation to solving these problems,” said Jacobson, who is director of Stanford’s Atmosphere/Energy Program and a senior fellow with the Precourt Institute for Energy. “It’s a social and political issue, primarily.”

Jacobson and his co-authors have published studies on how to switch to all solar, wind and water energy sources for the world, the United States and New York state. They will soon publish a study for California, and they have plans to do studies for all 50 U.S. states.

The plans show the way to a sustainable, inexpensive and reliable energy supply that could create local jobs and save billions of dollars in pollution-related health costs. They outline paths to fulfilling all transportation, electric power, industry, and heating and cooling energy needs with renewable energy by 2050. To do this, they calculate the number of new devices and jobs created, land and ocean areas required, and policies needed for infrastructure changes.

Speaking with Letterman, Jacobson expressed confidence in America’s ability to rise to the occasion. “In World War II, the U.S. produced 330,000 aircraft within five years just because it was necessary.”

—ROB JORDAN, Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment


Stanford Live, San Francisco Opera present simulcast of Verdi’s ‘Falstaff’

October 11th, 2013

Falstaff_at_Frost_Oct_2013Stanford Live and San Francisco Opera will team up for an evening of music under the stars with a live simulcast of Giuseppe Verdi’s Falstaff at Stanford University’s Frost Amphitheater tonight at 8 p.m. Through state-of-the-art high-definition technology, Verdi’s comic masterpiece will be projected to a large video screen. The simulcast is free but advance registration is encouraged to get the best viewing and picnicking spots. Registration is available on the San Francisco Opera website.

Based on Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry IV, Verdi’s final opera is a wise, wistful comedy about a self-deluded old man who vainly attempts to seduce two women at once.

San Francisco Opera Music Director NICOLA LUISOTTI leads a cast that features Welsh bass-baritone BRYN TERFEL, whose performance on Tuesday’s opening night has been described as “brilliant” and “everything that makes Falstaff irresistible.” The ensemble also includes soprano AINHOA ARTETA as Alice Ford, contralto MEREDITH ARWADY as Dame Quickly, Italian baritone FABIO CAPITANUCCI, making his company debut as Ford, tenor FRANCESCO DEMURO as Fenton and soprano HEIDI STOBER as Nannetta.

Sung in Italian, the performance will feature English subtitles on the amphitheater’s screen.

At the Falstaff simulcast, a selection of refreshments will be on sale and picnicking is welcome. To provide for everyone’s viewing comfort, lawn chairs, large coolers, strollers, wagons, umbrellas, barbecue grills and pets are not permitted, and all items are subject to search. Frost Amphitheater is also a non-smoking venue.

Beginning tonight at 6 p.m., registered patrons can enter the amphitheater with printed copies of their confirmation. Gates open for general entry at 7 p.m.

Frost Amphitheater is located at the corner of Galvez Street and Campus Drive. The main entrance is on Lasuen Street, off Campus Drive. Parking on the Stanford campus in metered and lettered parking zones is free on weekdays after 4 p.m. and on weekends at all times. The closest parking zones to Frost can be found in the Galvez Lot and on Lasuen Street, Museum Way, Roth Way and the Oval.  Visit the Stanford Live website for maps and directions.

—ROBERT CABLE, Stanford Live