Stanford Report Online

Stanford Report, June 18, 2003

For Casper, the Class of 2003 retains 'a special place in Gerhard’s heart'
Former president bids farewell to the last class he admitted, advises graduates to be critical as they seek knowledge


President Emeritus Gerhard Casper, professor of law, delivered a heartfelt and at times sentimental keynote address to seniors, their families and friends at the Alumni Association's annual Class Day luncheon at Ford Plaza on Saturday.

Casper, who served as university president from 1992 to 2000, began with a lighthearted message for his successor, John Hennessy, who was seated on the dais. "John, the great news is this: After one steps down as Stanford president, one will be remembered for at least another three years!"

Casper fondly turned his attention to the Class of 2003 -- the last class admitted during his presidency. He recalled introducing the students to Stanford's century-old motto, "Die Luft der Freiheit weht" -- "the wind of freedom blows" -- when they were freshmen in September 1999.

"Neither you nor I foresaw then that the question of what it means to be committed to the wind of freedom would within two years become one of the major questions of the third millennium's first year," he said. "Your class has witnessed the United States in full-blown wars, and you have experienced the ambiguities and the moral dilemmas that are associated with war. You, and all of us here today, are now faced with urgent and difficult questions about the balance between freedom and security."

Dream of Stanford

Casper advised the seniors not to become narrow in intellect, spirit, pursuits or values: "The search to know has always been characterized by the need to doubt, the need to be critical -- including the need to be self-critical. The task is to look not just for the evidence to support the propositions you like but for the counter-evidence as well."

He implored the class to "continue the particular public service that you have been engaged in as students when you act as citizens in the public realm," adding, "Wherever you will be, dream of Stanford."

Then, his voice filled with emotion, Casper addressed the seniors one last time: "Class of 2003, as Professor Casper says farewell to you, you will retain a special place in Gerhard's heart. I wish you well."

Alumni secret

Earlier in the day, Alumni Association President Howard E. Wolf made a secret confession to the audience: "Brace yourselves, Class of 2003, our secret is this: You are already alumni. In fact, most of you have officially been alumni since the beginning of your sophomore year."

According to Stanford policy, Wolf explained, students who complete three academic quarters are considered alumni: "Now, don't get me wrong. We are both grateful and happy that you elected to fulfill your three years of study, your final years, and that you are graduating tomorrow -- and my guess is that your parents also view that graduation element as more than a mere formality."

He then urged the students to join the Alumni Association: "You see, you truly never leave Stanford. This is your place forever."

Sterling Award

University Trustee Roger A. Clay Jr., co-chair of the Alumni Association's board of directors, then presented the association's annual J. E. Wallace Sterling Award to Scott J. Cannon for his leadership, vision and "untiring commitment to the Stanford community, from Art Fair to ISIS [Innovative Student Information Services] and numerous initiatives in between."

Roger A. Clay Jr., co-chair of the Alumni Association’s board on directors, along with President John Hennessy, far right, presented SAA’s annual J. E. Wallace Sterling Award to Scott J. Cannon. Photo: Cindy Pearson

Cannon, whose family lives in Pennsylvania, majored in electrical engineering and plans to enroll in the graduate program this fall. In addition to a framed citation, Clay presented Cannon with a lifetime membership in the Alumni Association, a Tiffany medallion clock and a copy of the book Stanford, Portrait of a University.

Clay also named two other seniors as Sterling Award finalists: Matthew Brewer, for his "forthright diplomacy" as president of the Associated Students and his leadership on the Stanford Daily's editorial board; and Myisha Patterson, for her "compassionate dedication to fostering cross-cultural understanding" as leader of the Stanford chapter of the NAACP.

Named for the late university President Wallace Sterling, the award recognizes a senior whose undergraduate activities demonstrate the strong potential for continued service to the university and the alumni community.

Senior Gift

Class Day ended with the presentation of the Senior Gift to The Stanford Fund for Undergraduate Education. The fund supports undergraduate scholarships and a wide range of academic and student-life programs.

Class of 2003 campaign chairs Wells Bullard, Tony Hsieh, Catherine Hunt, Connor Kidd and Dan Oros presented Hennessy with a check for $73,172.36.

One-third of the Class of 2003 -- 538 seniors -- donated a total of $16,386.09 to the fund, including 41 student Leadership Circle gifts of $100 or more. Alumnus Peter Bing committed a 2:1 match for all donations over $20, and the Parents Advisory Board committed an additional 1:1 match. Two anonymous parents also donated $1,000 for every 10 Leadership Circle gifts, bringing the total amount of matching funds to $56,786.27.

Hennessy drew laughter when he remarked, "Gerhard was always fond of saying the best things come in small packages, but it's not true about checks."

Hennessy reminded students that he was still provost when they arrived as freshmen four years ago. "I had a beard, you'll remember. You all looked younger than you do today -- I looked older -- but you certainly all look wiser, and I hope that is what you carry with you when you leave this place: a wisdom and a love of learning that all the faculty have tried to work so very hard to instill in you as part of your time here."

President emeritus Gerhard Casper implored seniors to continue to engage in public service. Photo: L.A. Cicero