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Stanford President Donald Kennedy welcomed his last freshman class to the Farm on Sept. 20, assuring new students that the university would carry on, despite a change in leadership and turbulent times ahead.
"Obviously university presidents like to consider themselves useful . . . but you should not get the idea that they actually run their universities in the way chief executives run their corporations," said Kennedy, who will step down from his post in August 1992.
More important, he said, are the common traditions supported by the Stanford faculty: a commitment to undergraduate education -- even when it leads to public argument about what to teach and how to teach it -- and a commitment to interdisciplinary and international education.
"Why do I bother to emphasize these shared values? I think it is important to recognize in a time of transition that the institution has a life and a culture of its own," Kennedy said.
"It doesn't derive its strength and direction from individual leaders; instead, successful leadership comes from the establishment of a kind of resonance between values widely held across the institution and the capacity of leaders to reflect and express those values inside it and outside.
"Do not expect a change in Stanford's character or direction because a presidency or a deanship changes. What Stanford is belongs to and derives from everybody who is a member of its extraordinary family -- including, now, each of you."
Kennedy also touched on his familiar theme of public service, but with a twist. "I applaud the growth in commitment to public service," he said. "(But) in my own view it is not possible to build a great society merely through the private actions of good persons, however worthy those actions may be.
"The ultimate remedies for the great problems we face - - poverty, environmental quality, health care, equality of educational opportunity -- lie partly within but mostly outside the grasp of helpful personal intervention. They require well-educated, highly motivated people who know how to work with one another, often in complex organizations."
Kennedy urged the new students to overcome their "mistrust of large scale, and bring your personal entrepreneurial impulse to bear on big, hard-to-mobilize structures."
Kennedy's welcome to the 1,526 freshmen and 199 transfer students was preceded by speeches from John Bunnell, associate dean and director of freshman admissions, and Michael Jackson, Stanford's new dean of students.
Bunnell regaled the cheering students "with mind- boggling statistics" confirming their excellence.
"Time doesn't permit a summary of your many talents and accomplishments in and out of the classroom," he said. "Let's just say we've been humbled at the range and depth of your achievements, inspired by the way in which many of you have overcome difficult circumstances, and impressed with your strong character traits and personal qualities.
"Indeed, some reference writers would have us believe that you qualify for sainthood. To quote one of your teachers, 'What a relief to be able to write with abandon about a magical student who is indeed the North Star by which henceforth I will measure direction and distance in evaluating students.' And from a guidance counselor, 'If ever the prototype of angels has earthly origins, then student X fills the bill.'
"Not all references are that glowing, of course. We received one years ago that was quite straightforward. 'Roger appears personable and alert -- but he isn't.' And then there was the student who was described as being 'bilingual in five languages -- an obvious admit!' "
Jackson opened his speech by thanking President Kennedy for the leadership he has provided to Stanford for the past 11 years.
"I, and others, particularly students, have benefited from his mentoring, personal advice and his model of dedication to this community," Jackson said. "His bold style of leadership has been infectious and encouraged many of us to action on behalf of the whole and the greater good."
Jackson also urged students to become involved in university life -- through research projects, overseas study, community service, voluntary student organizations and even through the university's upcoming budget-cutting process.
"Believe it or not, you too can be invaluable in helping us determine which services and programs you feel are crucial to your education at Stanford," he told the students.
"When you are approached by fellow students about getting involved in these efforts, learn about the issues and don't be afraid to ask questions, explore assumptions and add your ideas and energy to the decision-making process.
"Remember, generations of students helped create what exists today and you can help shape the future for succeeding classes of Stanford students."
Other welcoming speakers included John Louie, a member of the Stanford student council of presidents, and Angela Walton, this year's new student orientation coordinator.
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