Stanford Report Online

Stanford Report, May 2, 2001
Walter Hewlett: 'a final bequest to Stanford from Bill Hewlett'

This is the text of prepared comments made by Walter B. Hewlett, chairman of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, on the announcement of a $400 million dollar gift to Stanford.

The Board of Directors of The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation has unanimously approved a gift to Stanford University of $400 million. This gift will be added to the endowment of the university. At the recommendation of President Hennessy, $300 million will be allocated to the School of Humanities and Sciences and the remaining $100 million to the Campaign for Undergraduate Education.

This gift honors my father, who passed away in January. It honors his lifetime of philanthropy, his lifelong devotion to Stanford, and his passionate belief in the value of a liberal arts education. By helping Stanford fulfill its promise -- namely, increasing knowledge and helping young people -- we honor his wishes.

Why $400 million? We could have accomplished our purpose with a $20 million or $30 million or $50 million gift. $400 million is twenty times larger than the largest grant ever made by the Hewlett Foundation. To answer this question, I need to give you some background.

I have been a member of the H&S council for several years, first under Ewart Thomas, then John Shoven, and most recently under Mac Beasley. Over this period of time, I have noted increased budgetary pressure 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 were not 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. Around this time last year I started discussions with Mac Beasley and then Gerhard Casper about how my father's living trust might play a role in helping to fix this problem. These discussions continued through the summer and were taken up again in the fall when John Hennessy became president. Simultaneously, Stanford has been taking a close look at the situation from a needs assessment point of view to get an idea of what it would really take to put H&S on a sound financial footing. 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.

As many of you may know, my father suffered two strokes toward the end of his life, and for the last three years was unable to manage his financial affairs. I am convinced, however, that if he had been aware of the deteriorating financial situation at H&S, he would have made some provision for helping Stanford one final time.

The terms of his living trust specified that virtually all of his financial assets would transfer to the Hewlett Foundation on his death. The trustees of the Foundation felt that had he 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.

All right, why 400 million and why now? The size of 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. Stanford has not yet completed its needs assessment, and as such has not yet determined the amount of outside support needed, but we wanted to announce this gift now, so as to establish as strong a linkage as possible with my father's personal giving to Stanford.