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$100 million pledged for Stanford Graduate Fellowships

The first $108 million has been pledged in a campaign to raise a $200 million endowment for graduate fellowships, President Gerhard Casper announced at a news conference Tuesday, April 15.

The endowment will be used to sustain at least 300 new fellowships in the sciences and engineering.

"What we are accomplishing here is to make our graduate students less dependent on the vagaries of federal funding," Casper said.

Students who are nominated by their departments and selected by faculty committees will be given a tuition voucher of $12,000 and a stipend of $16,000 for each of three years. They can use the money to work in the lab or research group of their choice, rather than being limited to a research project or adviser based on available funding.

The fellowships will be available in the natural sciences, mathematics, statistics, engineering, the basic sciences in the School of Medicine, and those social sciences, including education, that are now dependent on federal assistantship support for their doctoral students.

Stanford will offer 100 three-year Ph.D. fellowships each academic year, beginning this fall.

Noting that federal support for research is expected to decline by between 14 and 18 percent in real dollars by the year 2002, Casper said, "We saw the necessity and decided to move."

At an annual payout rate of 5 percent, the anticipated $200 million endowment will provide $10 million each year for support of graduate fellowships.

Robert Bass, MBA '74, president of Keystone, Inc., chair of the board of trustees and one of a handful of donors who pledged the first $100 million, said the program is expected to reduce Stanford's annual reliance on federal grants for research assistantships by almost half.

"Vigorous, independent research and development are crucial for this country, for its progress, for industry and for the economy," Bass said. "Industry and science now and in the future call for creative, smart, well-trained, well-grounded, independent as well as department-based research ­ research capable of making new connections where, for example, electrical engineers work with biochemists and scientists from other disciplines."

John Morgridge, MBA '57, chair of Cisco Systems, referred to developments in personal computers, workstations and world networking that have distinguished local companies and said that Stanford had been "a cornerstone in the unique economic miracle that has made Silicon Valley a global competitor."

"One doesn't have to go too far to understand where we ought to invest," he added. "It's my hope, as chair of this [fund-raising] activity, to try and tap into those who have so generously benefited from the Valley miracle."

Casper announced the Stanford Graduate Fellowships Program, as well as plans to hire 20 new professors and improve undergraduate studies, at a meeting of the Faculty Senate on May 9, 1996.

Although the university "had almost no money when we made that announcement," he said the $108 million that has been pledged in the past 11 months was "a heartening endorsement" of the program.

"Our concern is that graduate students get specialized too early because of the dependence on grants, where they have to work for the objectives of the grant," he said. "What these fellowships make possible is that the students who receive them will be relatively free to try this or that, free to move from one lab to another, to make choices.

"That is important not only for the graduate students but for the university, because competition among faculty for graduate students is as important for the research and its quality as anything else."

Noting that all public and private research-intensive universities are facing funding challenges today, Casper added, "Stanford will definitely compete as hard as ever in the peer-review process for federal support. We will not let up for one second."

In the first phase of the $200 million program, $100 million was raised from a small number of founding donors. In the current phase, $8 million already has been given or pledged by 11 lead donors, and gifts continue to be sought from more donors whose contributions will be matched one for one.

Among the major donors are Silicon Valley executives whose gifts acknowledge the link between Stanford engineering programs and the dynamic growth of Silicon Valley over the past two decades. Founding donors include Bass and his wife, Anne; John and Tashia Morgridge; the David and Lucile Packard Foundation; and anonymous donors.

Additional lead donors include the Lucille P. Markey Charitable Trust (Dr. Robert Glaser, director, Medical Sciences); Dr. Burton and Deedee McMurtry, M.S. '59, Ph.D. '62, general partner of Technology Venture Investors; Thomas V. Jones, '42, retired chairman of Northrop Corporation; Andreas Bechtolsheim, M.A. '82, co-founder of Granite Systems; Franklin P. (Pitch) Johnson Jr., '50, M.A. '64, partner of Asset Management Company; Dr. David and Mary Collins, '64, chairman and CEO of Learning Tree International; Dr. Sang Samuel and Janet Chia Wang, Ph.D. '77, chairman and CEO of Epic Design Technology, Inc.; Winston Chen, chairman of Paramitas Foundation; Richard and Geraldine Reed Hodgson, '37/'38, director of McCowan Associates; Pierre and Christine Lamond, general partner of Sequoia Capital; and Eric and Illeana Benhamou, M.S. '77, president, CEO and chairman of 3COM Corporation.

McMurtry, who has been active in Silicon Valley start-up venture capital since 1969, said, "It's important to have something like this in place because you just can't count on federal funding and you don't want the constraints that could come with that funding."

He predicted that the graduate fellowships would be a "really important tool for recruiting the very best graduate students."

Jones, a former Stanford trustee, said he had been concerned for some time with the growing dependence on government contracts in research activity at the university.

"I always felt a university should do things in a much more free way," he said. "The key to research is young minds pursuing something they are really interested in."


By Diane Manuel