Stanford Report Online

Stanford Report, October 25, 2000
Hennessy inaugurated 10th president


President John Hennessy invited the community to engage in a dialogue on Stanford's future, saying in his inaugural address Friday that the university is well positioned to maintain and prosper as, in Leland and Jane Stanford's words, "a University of high degree."

By any measure, Hennessy told about 9,000 faculty, staff, students and alumni gathered at Frost Amphitheater, the university has prospered since the Stanfords described, in the Founding Grant 115 years ago, their objectives for "a University for both sexes, with Colleges, Schools, Seminaries of Learning, Mechanical Institutes, Museums, Galleries of Art, and all other things necessary and appropriate to a University of high degree."

President John Hennessy, former presidents Donald Kennedy and Gerhard Casper, and Chair of the Board of Trustees Isaac Stein leave Frost Amphitheatre after Hennessy's inauguration Friday.
photo: L.A. Cicero

Since those words were written, Hennessy noted, there have been "many challenges to overcome, but our history has been one of overcoming those challenges, taking advantages of opportunities and creating new ones where none previously existed. Today, we are correspondingly positioned. Despite the formidable challenges arising from the remarkable prosperity of Silicon Valley, we are perhaps better poised now to build on the accomplishments of the past than at any other time in our history."

As the university begins its 110th year, Hennessy said, it is an auspicious time to consider what Stanford stands for, what it shall be 10 years and 100 years from now, as well as how it ensures that future generations have the same opportunities students currently enjoy.

"I do not consider these comments so much a speech as an invitation to begin a dialogue," Hennessy said shortly after being formally invested as Stanford's 10th president and donning the presidential robe. "It is in this spirit that I offer this address, knowing that the success of what we will all accomplish over the next few years will largely depend on the degree to which all of you are involved in conceptualizing, implementing and supporting our initiatives."

Hennessy, 48, succeeds Gerhard Casper, who is returning to teaching after leading Stanford through eight years of steady growth and initiatives. Hennessy, who joined the Stanford faculty in 1977 as a computer science professor, rose to dean of the School of Engineering before Casper appointed him provost one year ago.

In laying out his vision of the university's top priorities, Hennessy began "with the area that is at the heart of our university: our commitment to undergraduate education." Second, he said, is the goal of admitting the most qualified students, regardless of their ability to pay; and third is to provide students access "to the research opportunities that arise from Stanford's position as a world-class research university."

To help carry out such a mission, Hennessy announced the launch of a five-year, $1 billion Campaign for Undergraduate Education.

Hennessy's inauguration speech was part of a festivities-filled day on campus. After the formal ceremonies, participants heading to the Quad for a box lunch were greeted with a performance by the inimitable Stanford Band. On the Quad, a long line of people waited to greet Hennessy and his wife, Andrea, and Isaac Stein, chair of the Board of Trustees, and his wife, Madeline. Others ate lunch at tables as student groups performed.

photo: L.A. Cicero

The inauguration came during Reunion Homecoming, allowing about 6,000 alumni to participate in the ceremonies as well as in a full range of weekend activities, including seminars led by faculty, an array of parties and Saturday's thrilling 32-30 football victory over the University of Southern California.

The inauguration ceremony itself, held under cool, partly cloudy skies, featured the pomp of a processional of faculty members in their full academic regalia and a varied selection of music and performers that included a song, The Call of the West, composed by Giancarlo Aquilanti, DMA '96, especially for the occasion.

Stein introduced Hennessy by noting his professional achievements in the field of computer architecture. But Stein said that while Hennessy "may have 21st-century skills, his commitment to [Stanford's] core values" led to his selection as president.

Hennessy was formally invested as Stanford's 10th president by Stein, and was presented the presidential robe by Paul Hartke, chair of the Graduate Student Council, and Malia Villegas, vice president of the Associated Students of Stanford University.

Hennessy's half-hour speech outlined the university's current and future challenges. He said he had seen at Stanford "a disparity in emphasis between the sciences and humanities. Outside research funding has, no doubt, been the dominant source of that disparity and has led to an inequality in total resources, if not in institutional emphasis, and a consequent concern that we are not doing enough for the arts and humanities at Stanford."

While investments were made in the humanities during the administrations of Casper and, before him, Donald Kennedy, "I believe a further increase in support for the arts and humanities will be needed," Hennessy said, drawing applause.

Hennessy also spoke of the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of studies, noting Stanford's pioneering successes in such programs as Human Biology, International Relations and Feminist Studies. But, he added, "Our interdisciplinary degree programs often appear underfunded; competition between interdisciplinary fields and traditional disciplines has sometimes led to difficulty in hiring and promoting faculty; and occasionally school boundaries create obstacles to new programs or collaborations. . . . We in the administration will do our best to minimize the barriers to such initiatives and encourage their pursuit. I know that I can depend on the faculty and students to generate both the new directions and the energy to pursue them."

Hennessy looked beyond academics to the university's relationship with the outside world, saying that "Stanford's future is inextricably tied to the future of our community, our state, our nation and our world. When we talk about new academic facilities, or the need to build housing, or the role that our lands play in supporting the financial needs of the university and our students, I trust that everyone, both inside and outside the university, understands that all our actions are undertaken to support our fundamental mission and to assure that we will be able to perform that mission for generations to come."

At the same time, he said, "we at the university must not forget that we exist as a part of a community and that carrying out our mission has an impact beyond our 8,000 acres. We must pledge to be aware of such impacts and we must acknowledge our role in helping to ameliorate them. And, we must never fail to communicate how everything we do supports the university's fundamental mission as well as our vision of Stanford's future."

Those comments came as the university expects action by Santa Clara County Oct. 31 on a new 10-year campus development plan.

The inauguration program also included remarks by the Rev. Scotty McLennan, dean for religious life; former presidents Casper, Kennedy and Richard W. Lyman; greetings from the staff from Academic Secretary Susan Schofield; greetings from the students from senior Seth Newton, president of the Associated Students; a benediction by Rabbi Patricia Karlin-Neumann, associate dean for religious life; and the reading by English Professor Eavan Boland of a poem by Denise Levertov.