Celebrating transformative philanthropy - the 10th anniversary of the Hewlett Foundation's $400 million gift to Stanford

The gift, announced in 2001, has greatly strengthened the university overall, leaving it better positioned to maintain core support for students and faculty over the long term while continuing to invest strategically in new areas of teaching and research. The impact of the gift, and the gifts it has given rise to, will be felt for generations.

Steve Castillo John Hennessy left, Eleanor Hewlett Gimon and Walter Hewlett with a portion of mosaic of the original Memorial Church

Stanford President John Hennessy, left, Eleanor Hewlett Gimon and Walter Hewlett, chair of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, admire a portion of a mosaic from the original Memorial Church that was given to the foundation on Monday.

Ten years ago, Walter B. Hewlett, the chairman of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, stood at a wooden podium looking out at a noontime audience of students and faculty seated on white folding chairs in the Main Quadrangle.

It was a simple, yet historic setting, for a simple, yet historic announcement.

"The board of directors of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation unanimously approved a gift to Stanford University of $400 million," he said. "This gift is a tribute to my father. It honors his lifetime of philanthropy, his lifelong devotion to Stanford and his passionate belief in the value of a liberal arts education."

Hewlett was speaking about the late William R. "Bill" Hewlett, co-founder of the Hewlett-Packard Company and an alumnus whose generosity and vision helped build Stanford into one of the world's preeminent research universities and transform Silicon Valley into a global model of innovation.

On that spring day in 2001, Walter B. Hewlett announced that $300 million of the gift was directed to the School of Humanities and Sciences, which had been suffering under increased budgetary pressures, and $100 million to the Campaign for Undergraduate Education, a five-year campaign launched in 2000 to raise $1 billion for new and existing undergraduate education programs.

The Hewlett Foundation gift was designed as a strategic investment in the university, employing the power of a matching challenge – The Hewlett Challenge – to build endowment for undergraduate education and to secure the financial footing of the School of Humanities and Sciences.

"My father did not believe in trying to solve problems himself," Hewlett told the rapt crowd. "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 Hewlett Foundation gift remains the largest gift ever given to Stanford, and was at the time the largest single gift to an American college or university.

Enabling great people to do great things

By any measure, the Hewlett Foundation gift to Stanford has been transformative.

Steve Castillo Esther and Walter Hewlett

Esther and Walter Hewlett listen to a student panel, part of a symposium to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Hewlett Foundation gift on Monday.

It inspired hundreds of donors to provide foundational support for faculty and students, revitalizing undergraduate education and the School of Humanities and Sciences. It helped fuel the success of The Campaign for Undergraduate Education, which had raised more than $1.1 billion when it concluded on Dec. 31, 2005.

"Ten years ago, the Hewlett Foundation and members of the Hewlett family stepped forward to inspire fellow donors to support the liberal arts at Stanford, and in so doing, set a new standard for philanthropy in higher education," said Leslie Hume, chair of the Stanford University Board of Trustees.

"Their remarkable generosity ensured that Stanford will endure as a 'university of high degree,'" she said, quoting founders Leland and Jane Stanford, who established the university in honor of their son, Leland Jr., who died of typhoid fever at age 15.

"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," said Stanford Provost John Etchemendy, the Patrick Suppes Family Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences. "There is no one at Stanford who has not benefited from his legacy."

Numbers help illustrate that legacy.

The Hewlett Foundation gift inspired more than 700 people – nearly half of them first-time endowment donors – to contribute to Stanford. The $400 million Hewlett gift, plus $420 million in new endowment gifts and pledges leveraged by the match, resulted in $820 million for Stanford.

With the new endowments, Stanford created 60 new endowed faculty positions and 108 endowed graduate fellowships.

"The Hewlett gift to H&S allowed us to attract the most outstanding faculty and graduate students – contributing to a chemistry of discovery that can't be found in any other place in the world," said Richard P. Saller, the Vernon R. and Lysbeth Warren Anderson Dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences, and the Kleinheinz Family Professor of European Studies.

L.A. Cicero President John Hennessy with Walter Hewlett

In this 2001 photo, President John Hennessy and Walter Hewlett, chair of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, shake hands at a news conference announcing the Hewlett Foundation's $400 million gift to Stanford.

Stanford also established a $232 million endowment for need-based and athletic scholarships for undergraduate students.

"The undergraduate experience has been greatly impacted by the Hewlett gift," said Susan Ford Dorsey, former chair of the Humanities and Sciences Council. "It has allowed the university to welcome a broad array of students, provide them with the opportunity to study with the brightest professors, and prepare them to go out and make their mark on the world."

In addition, Stanford created a $218 million endowment for programs, ranging from overseas studies to theoretical physics.

The Hewlett gift also contributed to the establishment of more than 400 new scholarship funds during the Campaign for Undergraduate Education.

"Thanks to the generous support of the Hewlett Foundation and family, Stanford has become a trailblazer in undergraduate education with programs and initiatives – distinguished by intensive contact between our world-class faculty and exceptional students – that others have sought to emulate," said Harry J. Elam Jr., the Freeman-Thornton Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, and the Olive H. Palmer Professor in the Humanities.

Those new programs include Introductory Seminars, Sophomore College and undergraduate research programs.

A campus celebration

Stanford celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Hewlett Foundation Gift Monday with special events – a keynote address and student panel at the Koret Taube Conference Center in the John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn Building and a reception and dinner in McCaw Hall in the Frances C. Arrillaga Alumni Center.

The distinguished guests included members of the Hewlett family, including Walter B. Hewlett, who remains chairman of the foundation, and Paul Brest, who is the president of the foundation, an emeritus law professor at Stanford and former dean of the Law School. More than 60 faculty and students – direct beneficiaries of the gift – were present to express their appreciation.

President John Hennessy addressed the guests in a keynote speech. Elam moderated a panel of undergraduates – two seniors and two juniors – talking about their lives and academic pursuits at Stanford. Saller welcomed everyone to dinner.

The event featured the first screening of a video focused on how the Hewlett Foundation gift strengthened the School of Humanities and Sciences and inspired a new generation of donors. The video can be viewed here.

The program featured a quote from a 1986 interview with Bill Hewlett in The Chronicle of Higher Education about his commitment to the Centennial Campaign, a five-year campaign to raise $1.1 billion, tied to Stanford's 100th anniversary. Hewlett's quote was inserted on vellum in between two close-up photos of sandstone carvings in the Main Quad:

"Stanford has been important to me and my family, to my company, to this community, and to the nation. I want to see it strengthened for the future so that it will continue to benefit society through educating promising young people and performing research essential to the progress of mankind."

At the end of the evening, Hennessy and Hume presented a gift to the Hewlett Foundation – a segment of the original mosaic from Memorial Church.