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Stanford Report, May 2, 2001
Hewlett Foundation makes history with $400 million gift

The stunning news was delivered to the campus community at a hastily scheduled noontime meeting May 2 on the Main Quadrangle. Upon being introduced by President John Hennessy, Walter B. Hewlett, chairman of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, said simply: "The board of directors of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation [has] unanimously approved a gift to Stanford University of $400 million."

The crowd of several hundred faculty and students --- alerted to the event by an e-mail promising an "unprecedented historical announcement" -- initially gasped in awe and then broke out in applause.

Immediately follwing the announcement on the Quad, former President Gerhard Casper, Hewlett Foundation Chairman Walter Hewlett and President John Hennessy shared a moment of revelry. photo: L.A. Cicero

When Hewlett went on to say that $300 million of the gift was for the School of Humanities and Sciences and $100 million for the Campaign for Undergraduate Education, the gasps and applause turned into sustained cheers.


William Hewlett
Courtesy Hewlett-Packard Co.

The gift is the largest in Stanford's history and, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the largest single gift to an American college or university.

"This gift honors my father, who passed away in January, and honors his lifetime of philanthropy, his lifelong devotion to Stanford and his passionate belief in the value of a liberal arts education," Walter Hewlett said, referring to his late father, the engineering pioneer William R. Hewlett, who established the foundation in 1966 and died Jan. 12 at the age of 87.

Walter Hewlett explained that, as a member of the advisory council to the School of Humanities and Sciences, "I have noticed increased budgetary pressures on the school. First there were cost-cutting measures, then more money saved around the edges, then tapping of the reserve fund. But as time went on, I started to see major changes -- billets going unfilled, faculty salaries not keeping up, students undersupported. It became clear to me that if something wasn't done to put the school on a more firm financial footing, there would be major deterioration -- not just in a few departments, but all across the school."

He said plans for such a gift had been under way for about a year.

"Unfortunately, my father's death in January intervened in this process and it no longer became possible for his trust to make an outright gift to Stanford. The terms of his living trust specify that virtually all of his financial assets would transfer to the Hewlett Foundation on his death. The trustees of the foundation felt that if he had been able, he would have made this kind of gift to Stanford. We think of this gift not in the context of our normal grant-making at the foundation, but rather as being like a final bequest to Stanford from Bill Hewlett.

"Why 400 million and why now?" he continued, as the silent crowd on the Quad listened intently. "The size of the 400 million relates to the size of the problem. My father did not believe in trying to solve problems by himself. But he did believe that a leadership gift needed in some sense to move the needle. There is a major gap in financial support that needs to be filled. This gift will help, but there is still much work to be done."

The announcement took place on the Main Quad. Speakers included, above, Malcolm Beasley, dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences, as well as President John Hennessy and foundation Chairman Walter Hewlett. photo: L.A. Cicero

A challenge to others

Hennessy called the gift "magnificent," saying that it was "very much in the tradition of Bill Hewlett -- a strategic investment in the university he loved, addressing its most compelling and immediate needs." He said the gift "uses the power of philanthropy to encourage support from others" and becomes "a wonderful part of Bill's legacy at Stanford."

It also, he said, "will help the university fulfill a different legacy -- that of its founders, Jane and Leland Stanford, who were so committed to the ideal of creating a 'university of high degree.' That vision was clearly articulated by the university's first president, David Starr Jordan, who wanted Stanford to be a place where 'work in the applied sciences was to be carried out side-by-side with the pure sciences and humanities' and to be equally fostered. As I said in my inauguration, we have been true to this goal at the core. But like many of my colleagues, and like members of the Humanities and Sciences Council, I have seen a disparity in emphasis between engineering and applied sciences, on one hand, and the humanities and the natural sciences, on the other hand.

"With this gift, the future fulfillment of a challenge lies before us -- a challenge to really set the school on an important path to address its immediate needs, and to set it forward toward greater excellence."

James C. Gaither, a foundation director and former chair of Stanford's Board of Trustees, said he hoped the gift "will encourage others in the philanthropic world -- individuals as well as foundations -- to think boldly about making major commitments to the universities and other institutions that are important to our future."

The School of Humanities and Sciences, the largest of the university's seven schools, has identified needs totaling more than $1 billion. The $300 million will go for unrestricted endowment and for other objectives such as endowed professorships and endowed graduate fellowships.

"The awesome generosity of the gift speaks for itself," said Malcolm R. Beasley, the Vernon R. and Lysbeth Warren Anderson Dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences and the Theodore and Sydney Rosenberg Professor in Applied Physics. "What is less apparent to those on the outside, perhaps, is the power this gift will have in strengthening the teaching, learning and research that goes on at Stanford in disciplines that we believe are at the very core of the university's mission."

Sharon R. Long, the William C. Steere, Jr.--Pfizer Inc. Professor in Biological Sciences, who will become dean Sept. 1, said the school's role is "to embody the ideals of scholarship. These ideals are disinterested inquiry, devotion to discovering truth rather than confirming preconceived ideas or serving already formed agendas, superb care in research and rigorous self-criticism. These ideals were born in schools of humanities and sciences, and it is in such schools, in our school, that these ideals continue to be tested and given new life. It is with inspiration from these ideals that our school takes its place at the heart of Stanford undergraduate education, passing along to the next generation the love of learning and the capacity for critical and original thought."

President John Hennessy and Walter Hewlett, chairman of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, shake hands following Wednesday's press conference. Photo: L.A. Cicero

The School of Humanities and Sciences is also the youngest of the university's schools. Although many of its departments have existed since the university's beginning, it was organized as a school only 50 years ago. The gift will help the school build a stronger financial infrastructure for the long term.

After listening to the announcement, an elated Karen Cook, the Ray Lyman Wilbur Professor in the Department of Sociology, said such a gift "opens the door to a new scale of thinking" at the School of Humanities and Sciences, which she said has lost faculty to such universities as Harvard and Yale. "This will help in the recruitment and retention of outstanding faculty. Departments are only as strong as their faculty."

Following the announcement, Jennifer Trimble, acting assistant professor of classics, congratulated Walter Hewlett as Malcolm Beasley, H&S dean, and Sharon Long, who becomes dean Sept. 1, looked on. photo: L.A. Cicero

The remaining $100 million of the foundation's gift will be invested in two key components of the $1 billion Campaign for Undergraduate Education, half designated for endowed undergraduate scholarships, the other half to directly enhance undergraduate education, including new programs that encourage undergraduates to work with faculty mentors in small seminars and independent research projects.

A history of giving

William Hewlett graduated from Stanford with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in 1934. At Stanford, he met his lifelong friend, David Packard, with whom he co-founded Hewlett-Packard in 1936. The two also were partners in service and support of Stanford for more than 60 years. Together, they strengthened the university by helping build and sustain the School of Engineering, supporting young faculty through the Terman Fellowships and helping make the new Science and Engineering Quadrangle a reality.

Bill Hewlett, center, with his partner David Packard, left, and former Provost Frederick Terman, who inspired the two graduate students to follow their dream of starting an electronics company. Hewlett and Packard honored their mentor by funding construction of the Terman Engineering Building, dedicated in 1952. credit: Stanford News Service

Before last week's gift, Hewlett, Packard and their family foundations had altogether donated close to $400 million to the university, according to John B. Ford, vice president for development. "Only Leland and Jane Stanford have played a larger role in Stanford's success," Ford said.

Hewlett's support has reached far beyond the science and engineering gifts for which many remember him. As the lead donor in each of Stanford's three university-wide campaigns, he provided matching funds to help the university draw broad support for the many professorships, graduate fellowships and undergraduate scholarships that bear the names of other donors.

"Through his own generosity and the generosity he encouraged in others, Bill Hewlett has supported hundreds of faculty members and thousands of undergraduate and graduate students in departments all over campus," Provost John Etchemendy said. "There is no one at Stanford who has not benefited from his legacy."

View a 30-second Quicktime video of Walter Hewlett, William Hewlett's son and Chairman of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, describing the foundation's $400 million gift to Stanford.

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