Trustees address a range of issues

During its recent meeting, the Stanford Board of Trustees endorsed the Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program, set tuition, approved construction projects, discussed investment responsibility and the Year of Learning, and welcomed former trustees back to campus with a program in the arts district.

At its Feb. 22-23 meeting, the Stanford University Board of Trustees set tuition for the 2016-17 academic year, approved construction projects, heard presentations from university leaders and visited the Anderson Collection at Stanford University.

After the two-day meeting, Stanford announced the Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program, a graduate-level scholarship to prepare a new generation of global leaders with the skills to address the increasingly complex challenges facing the world.

Steven Denning, trustees chair

Steven Denning, chair of the university’s Board of Trustees (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

The program is named for alumnus Philip H. Knight, MBA ’62, philanthropist, American businessman and co-founder of Nike Inc., who is contributing $400 million, and Stanford’s outgoing 10th president, John L. Hennessy. The program builds on Stanford’s preeminent position in higher education, with seven globally ranked multidisciplinary graduate schools that foster service, collaboration, innovation and entrepreneurship.

Steven A. Denning, chair of the Board of Trustees, said the board unanimously endorsed the Knight-Hennessy Scholarship and is excited about its potential.

“Stanford instills in its students an emphasis on interdisciplinary education, innovation, creative problem solving and entrepreneurial thinking,” Denning said. “Knight-Hennessy Scholars will benefit from that embedded culture, and in turn, they will enrich the Stanford community and, ultimately, the world.”

Construction projects

Trustees approved the design of a new research center to house Stanford Chemistry, Engineering & Medicine for Human Health (ChEM-H) and the Stanford Neurosciences Institute.

The research center will be located in the area bounded by Campus Drive West, Via Ortega, Via Palou and Panama Street, on the site of the recently demolished Cardinal Cogeneration Plant. The project is expected to return to trustees for construction approval in June.

Trustees also approved construction of the central loading dock for the future Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Biology Research Building. Last year, trustees approved the design of the Bass Biology Building, which will be located across Campus Drive from the James. H. Clark Center. The building is expected to return to trustees for construction approval in June.

Teaching and learning

Trustees heard a presentation from John Mitchell, vice provost for teaching and learning, who titled his address “Inventing the Future of Teaching and Learning.”

Mitchell focused primarily on the 2015-16 Year of Learning, a series of events and initiatives for the Stanford community designed to engage faculty, instructors, students, staff and alumni in thinking about the past, present and future of teaching and learning at Stanford and beyond. The university launched the Year of Learning in October with a celebration of great teaching.

The next event in the Year of Learning, “The University of the Future: Learning Across the Lifespan,” will be held at 4 p.m. Tuesday, March 1, in Room 300 of the Huang Building.

The event will feature a panel discussion with Harry J. Elam Jr., vice provost for undergraduate education; Jennifer Widom, a professor of computer science and of electrical engineering; Philip Pizzo, former dean of Stanford School of Medicine and founding director of the Distinguished Careers Institute at Stanford; and others, who will discuss lifelong learning, the evolving traditional role of the university and ideas for the future of Stanford in the changing ecosystem of higher education.

Mitchell also discussed Stanford’s new course evaluations, which were introduced autumn quarter, and were designed to increase student self-reflection and provide customized feedback to faculty.


Susan Weinstein, chair of the Advisory Panel on Investment Responsibility and Licensing, presented the panel’s recommendation on a request that Stanford divest from 200 fossil-fuel extraction companies.

Denning said the board’s Special Committee on Investment Responsibility is evaluating the recommendation in the context of Stanford’s Statement on Investment Responsibility, which includes the six requirements that must be met in order for trustees to divest and to suspend further direct investment by the endowment in a company or companies.

He added that the Special Committee on Investment Responsibility will make a recommendation on the request to the full Board of Trustees.

“We hope to have a response to the divestment request by the end of the year, but hopefully before then,” Denning said.

Former trustees feted in new arts district

Every other year, the Board of Trustees hosts a meeting of the Council of Trustees, which is composed of former members of the board. This year, a record number of former trustees returned to campus for a program of events held in the university’s new arts district, including lunch, dinner, talks and a tour of the Anderson Collection at Stanford University.

Denning noted that the arts district represents a significant part of President Hennessy’s legacy. During his tenure, Stanford created the arts district by adding three buildings to the neighborhood surrounding the Cantor Arts Center: Bing Concert Hall, which opened in 2013; the Anderson Collection at Stanford University, which opened in 2014; and the McMurtry Building for the Department of Art & Art History, which opened in 2015.

The Council of Trustees reunion dinner was held in the Gunn Atrium of Bing Concert Hall.

At the new McMurtry Building for the Department of Art & Art History, the former trustees heard an address by President Hennessy, who talked about the remarkable transformation of the campus since he took office in 2000.

“The attendance for this year’s reunion was a testament to John’s leadership and his legacy,” Denning said. “John’s presentation was a real tour de force.”

At the McMurtry Building, Jason Linetzky, director of the Anderson Collection at Stanford University, gave former trustees an overview of its distinctive collection of postwar American art – 121 modern and contemporary paintings and sculptures.

Then, Professor Alexander Nemerov, a scholar of American art and chair of the Department of Art & Art History, gave a lecture on one particular painting in the collection – a 1957 abstract by Clyfford Still – that visitors see at the top of the stairs in the museum. After the presentations, the former trustees toured the Anderson Collection.

Accolades for Stanford’s president-designate

Denning said that in the weeks since the Feb. 4 announcement that Marc Tessier-Lavigne, a pioneering neuroscientist, will be Stanford’s 11th president, he has received a significant number of unsolicited accolades about him.

Tessier-Lavigne, who is currently president of Rockefeller University, will take office Sept. 1, succeeding President Hennessy, who took office in 2000.

Denning said the people who praised Tessier-Lavigne described him as an extraordinarily talented individual who had played a catalytic role in raising the profile of the life sciences in New York City and in championing the New York Genome Center while serving as Rockefeller’s president.

“Marc, who was the first person in his family to go to college, is humble and self-effacing, and a great listener,” Denning said. “He is also a highly distinguished scientist, a well-respected academic, a proven entrepreneur and business executive, and the sitting president of a distinguished university. I have very high hopes that Marc will be able to build on John’s astounding legacy.”