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April 28, 2004

Harry Sanders, former director of campus planning, dead at 89

By Barbara Palmer

Harry L. Sanders Jr., the university's first full-time campus planner who helped supervise the postwar building boom under President Wallace Sterling that added scores of buildings to the campus, died April 23 in a hospital in Washington, D.C.

Sanders, 89, died of natural causes following a brief illness, family members said.

During Sanders' two-decade campus career, Stanford built the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, the Medical Center, Escondido Village and buildings including Tresidder Union, Meyer Library and the Graduate School of Business. Altogether, Sanders oversaw 515 building projects, it was calculated at his retirement in 1976.

But Sanders' tenure also is notable for what was subtracted from the campus central core: automobiles. When Sanders came to Stanford in 1956, professors parked their cars beside the Main Quad, which then had streets running along its sides, said Gene Kershner, a retired planning office manager who worked with Sanders for 19 years.

Although there was a "hullabaloo" when Lomita Mall was closed, what was foremost in Sanders' mind was to create a campus for students ­ "and students are pedestrians," Kershner said. "He wanted to create a campus that would create a community."

Born Matthew Harry Lovat Sanders Jr. on April 17, 1915, in Greenwood, Miss., Sanders lived in Providence, R.I., and in Memphis, Tenn., before graduating in 1937 with a bachelor's degree in architecture from Tulane University. Sanders worked as a reporter for the New Orleans Times-Picayune and the Memphis Commercial Appeal before heading a division of the Pacific Overseas Office of War Information during World War II.

From 1946 to 1954, Sanders worked as a planner for the San Francisco Department of City Planning and was principal planner for the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency. He also worked as a lecturer and planning consultant for the University of California-Berkeley and for the Ford Foundation before coming to Stanford in 1956 as associate director of planning. After architect Eldridge Spencer resigned in 1960 from what was then a part-time position as planning director, Sanders became the director and the first full-time employee of the planning office.

Sanders added architects, civil and mechanical engineers, landscape designers and project managers to the planning office as Stanford embarked on a $100 million capital campaign known as PACE (Plan of Action for a Challenging Era) under Sterling. During the 1960s, he worked 18-hour days and was a member of 21 permanent committees, a Stanford News Service press release noted when he retired in 1976.

Stanford was his professional life, said his son, Matt Sanders, a Stanford alumnus who lives in Los Altos Hills. "His greatest personal belief was that there should be a unifying model for the planning and design of the university." He also believed in designing spaces so that they fit people and recognized that landscape architects played as important a role as the architects of buildings, Matt Sanders said. Harry Sanders worked closely with Thomas Church, the famed landscape designer who was a member of Stanford's architectural advisory council from 1960 to 1978.

A co-founder of the Society for College and University Planning and a member of the Stanford Library Associates and the Stanford Historical Society, Sanders also "collected friends like nobody you ever saw," his son added.

"He was a sweetheart to work with. Everybody loved Harry," Kershner said.

A group of planning office and other staff who were inspired to start meeting for lunch so they could get together after Sanders retired are still meeting nearly 30 years later, said Cassius Kirk, a former staff attorney for the university and a member of the lunch group. "Harry had very good taste and was very, very concerned about the campus. He had a very loyal planning staff," Kirk said. "He was very truly genteel and refined."

In 1961, Sanders outlined his principles and the university's plans in a talk delivered at an alumni conference. "Much of what I have talked about and so much of what I advocate represents an enormous amount of money and gigantic projects. This is true," he said. "On the other hand, I am suggesting small-scale projects at the same time ­ small-scale or human-scale projects. For these are the things which visually most affect our everyday lives. And these are amenities which every neighborhood in every city can reach ­ amenities without which no city can achieve warmth and interest and personality and real appeal."

Sanders was preceded in death by his wife of 48 years, Marjorie Marchal Sanders. He is survived by Matt Sanders; a daughter, Marchal Sanders Meenan of Chevy Chase, Md.; and five grandchildren.

Private services are planned. His family suggests that in lieu of flowers, memorial contributions be made to the Stanford University Library Associates, c/o Green Library, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, or charitable organizations.



Barbara Palmer, News Service: (650) 724-6184,


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