Stanford Report Online

Stanford Report, May 9, 2001
Faculty and donors challenged to take H&S to the 'next level of excellence'


The lion's share of the Hewlett Foundation's $400 million gift to Stanford will go to the School of Humanities and Sciences, but the money only begins to help the school meet its financial challenges.

University officials said the foundation's $300 million gift in unrestricted endowment funds will serve as a springboard for raising additional money to meet the school's future needs, which have been estimated at more than $1 billion. And they are calling upon the faculty to help in the effort.

"I think one of the most exciting things about this grant is that the Hewlett Foundation has provided us with flexible support for the core of the university, the School of Humanities and Sciences," said Provost John Etchemendy.

"This has put the ball back in Stanford's court, and it's now up to the faculty and administration to respond. The nature of our response ­ and our level of commitment ­ will be critical. That will be evident not just in our ability to meet the grant's financial challenge, but in the way we develop intellectually innovative programs that will take the school to the next level of excellence," he said.

Hewlett Foundation President Paul Brest, former dean of the Stanford Law School, told the crowd gathered on the Main Quadrangle for the announcement last week that, "despite its magnitude, this gift only begins to fill the needs of H&S and undergraduate education."

Brest said that faculty, too, share a responsibility for meeting fund-raising challenges. He attributed much of the success of the $75-million Campaign for Stanford Law School ­ which concluded in the fall of 1999 after raising more than $116 million ­ to faculty members' efforts.

"The key to our success was the faculty ­ faculty who were willing, even eager, to go on the road to talk to alumni about the school's achievements, its challenges and its needs," Brest said. "The strength and vitality of H&S depends on you, the faculty's, similar commitment. If each member of the H&S faculty gave 10 hours a year of your time, this would virtually assure the future of the school."

David M. Kennedy, the Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History, agreed with Brest. "This is a chronic problem -- a lot of the faculty just have a certain amount of distaste for this sort of thinking, and I think we all have to overcome that," he said.

Biological sciences Professor Sharon Long, who becomes dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences Sept. 1, said she plans to assemble a group of colleagues to help her plan priorities and strategies for the use and growth of the gift.

"For the faculty of this school ­ for you who are my colleagues ­ it is now our challenge and, indeed, it's our duty to use this extraordinary gift to achieve extraordinary things," she said.

Highly ranked programs

The departments and programs of the School of Humanities and Sciences have remained among the most highly ranked in the country. According to a 1995 report by the National Research Council, Stanford's research-doctoral programs in English, chemistry, biology (ecological, evolutionary and behavioral), economics, linguistics, political science, psychology, anthropology, comparative literature, French, German, history, mathematics, philosophy, physics and sociology rank in the top 10 nationally.

The school's budgetary strains amount to growing pains, university officials say.

"Stanford is just getting better and better and better, and it just takes more resources," said Malcolm Beasley, the school's dean.

For the most part, the school's departments and programs are 60 to 80 percent of the size of their counterparts at peer universities, he explained during a presentation to the Faculty Senate last year.

A school born late

The School of Humanities and Sciences was created in 1948 ­ a full 57 years after Stanford opened ­ and is the university's most recently established school. Most of Stanford's peer institutions, however, went the opposite route, starting with a liberal arts school. The reason for this discrepancy harks back to Stanford's first president, David Starr Jordan, who organized Stanford into departments rather than schools.

But by 1916, "the old departmental system had begun crystallizing into airtight compartments," the late President Ray Lyman Wilbur wrote in his memoirs, "so that we had to break down some of the barriers to get a freer circulation of air, a wider view, and more opportunities for interchange of ideas and information."

In 1922, the first nonprofessional school, the School of Biology, was established. Over the years, other departments were grouped into a School of Social Sciences, a School of Physical Sciences and a School of Humanities. Eventually, these schools also were perceived as too narrow, and they were combined into the present-day School of Humanities and Sciences, which is the university's largest; it accounts for about 33 percent of the overall faculty. Its departments and programs administer roughly 81 percent of the bachelor's degrees and about 46 percent of the doctoral degrees earned at the university.

Understandably, the $300 million gift has thrilled the school's faculty.

"This is fantastic news," said Jennifer Trimble, acting assistant professor of classics. "Both archaeology and classics at Stanford are energized and growing right now ­ we have great faculty, staff and students, and great ideas for teaching and research. This gift means the kind of support that can make those happen."

Rob Robinson, chair of the German Studies Department and director of the Introduction to the Humanities (IHUM) Program, called the gift "incredibly generous" and "well targeted."

"It obviously helped that [Walter] Hewlett has been on the H&S Council throughout the school's trials and tribulations of the past few years. He knows well where the gaps are growing, which to my mind include especially unfilled billets, which he mentioned. ...

"As for the $100 million targeted for the [Campaign for Undergraduate Education], as director of IHUM I clearly find that also very well targeted. The undergraduate initiatives, including not only IHUM and freshman/sophomore seminars, but a lot more, have been a bright spot for the humanities in the last several years, and this gift, as well as the further gifts Mr. Hewlett was clearly encouraging, should put these programs on a firm financial footing."