Stanford Report Online



Stanford Report, October 25, 2000
'We know that the lamp will remain brightly lit at Stanford University'

This is the prepared text of Chair of the Board of Trustees Isaac Stein's speech at the inauguration of John L. Hennessy on Friday, Oct. 20, 2000.

Good morning. Today, I have the pleasure of introducing John Hennessy. But before doing so, I would like to take a moment for a few special acknowledgments. At David Starr Jordan's inauguration as Stanford's first president in 1891, he noted: "Our university has no history to fall back upon, no memories of great teachers haunt its corridors. In none of its rooms appear the traces which show where a great man has lived and wrought."

Fortunately, the past century has given Stanford more than our fair share of great teachers and great men and women. As we inaugurate John Hennessy as the 10th president, we are privileged to have on the platform today the seventh, eighth and ninth presidents of Stanford University. Dick Lyman, Don Kennedy and Gerhard Casper represent 30 years of inspired leadership, and their extraordinary efforts form the foundation on which President Hennessy's initiatives will be built. Please join me in expressing our appreciation to these "great teachers and great men" who have given so much to Stanford.

I would like also to thank Bob Bass, my predecessor as chairman of the Board of Trustees. His exemplary leadership of the board was a critical element in addressing many of the important issues of the last four years. Bob also appointed the presidential search committee chaired by Jim Ukropina and John Etchemendy that recommended the appointment, which we celebrate today, of John Hennessy as president.

In introducing a new leader for Stanford University in the year 2000, it is tempting for a speaker to fall back on terms like the "21st-century president" or the "president for a new millennium." And obviously, as a distinguished academic scientist and successful entrepreneur, John Hennessy seems well suited to those types of phrases.

However, I would submit that our search for the 10th president of Stanford was strikingly similar to the search for his predecessors in that office. And while John may indeed have 21st-century skills, it is his commitment to the core values that are Stanford that led to his selection as our new president.

Shortly after the founding of the university, Sen. Stanford expressed concern about the challenges of recruiting a leader for the institution. He said "as for a president, I find it one of the most difficult things to secure a man in every way qualified to the position, and who would be willing to accept the situation, as it is one of hard work and grave responsibilities."

Alas the hard work and grave responsibilities still remain but, fortunately, like Sen. Stanford in his selection of David Starr Jordan, the Board of Trustees again was able to find a strong, dynamic and capable leader for Stanford University. What were we looking for? In seeking a new president, the Board of Trustees wanted a visionary leader, somebody with complete integrity, a strong understanding of and commitment to the academic mission, the management skills to manage the complexities of a multibillion-dollar budget and, of course, the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Although the search committee was not able to verify the sightings of John soaring over Hoover Tower, it was very confident that he exemplified all of the other enumerated requirements.

As an academician, John is one of the country's foremost authorities on computer architecture, the author of seven books and 90 papers. His best known work was in the development of "reduced instruction set command" or RISC architecture. Surely, having expertise in RISC is good preparation for life as a university president!

John's pioneering work also had an entrepreneurial side and that led to the successful start-up by John and his cofounders of MIPS Technologies. In fact, in 1998 the magazine Electronics Engineering Times wanted to identify "the 40 greatest forces shaping the semiconductor industry in the 21st century." I am delighted to say that John and his Berkeley collaborator, Dave Patterson, placed second on this list. But second to a mineral -- silicon, which probably explains why, at least so far, we continue to live in Silicon Valley rather than Hennessy Valley.

Moreover, it is not just his own scientific work that distinguishes John as a scholar but also his translation of that work into the education of his students. In awarding second place to John and his collaborator, Electronics Engineering Times cited their special ability "to infuse the next generation of computer scientists -- their students -- with fresh ideas and a contagious zeal for the possibilities of technology."

I should also note that John's interest in scientific research and teaching began at quite an early age. During his junior year of high school, John built a machine to play tic-tac-toe and won first place in a local science fair. Buoyed by his victory, the following year, he won something even more important: the attention of one Andrea Berti, now Andrea Hennessy. John dazzled Andrea and their fellow cashiers and baggers at the local supermarket with his innovative device for viewing the solar eclipse. John did not, however, take credit for causing the eclipse.

While academic qualifications are important, no president can lead Stanford University without strong personal values. At a symposium a few years ago, John was asked to describe his own core values. He cited respect for the individual, a commitment to fairness and equity and above all, honesty. As he put it, "I operate on the principal that I say what I mean and I mean what I say." John Hennessy's career as professor, entrepreneur, dean and provost provides ample evidence of his commitment to these values. As an active member of not only the Stanford community but also the broader communities in which we exist locally, regionally, nationally and internationally, John represents the embodiment of the public service intentions that led to the formation of the university.

I know that you will all join me in welcoming John; his wife, Andrea; and their two sons, Thomas and Christopher, to their new role at Stanford. As the noted Prime Minister of England Benjamin Disraeli once said, "A University must be a place of light, of learning and of liberty." With John Hennessy as our 10th president, we know that the lamp will remain brightly lit at Stanford University.

John, I invite you now to join me at the podium for the formal investiture. I would also like to call forward Paul Hartke, chair of the Graduate Student Council, and Malia Villegas, vice president of the Associated Students of Stanford University, who bring with them the traditional robe of the president.

By the authority of the Board of Trustees of this university, I hereby formally inaugurate you, John L. Hennessy, as president of Stanford. And as a visible symbol of your authority in that office, I now invest you with the robe of president.

Congratulations.