Serra Mall on the main Stanford campus will be renamed Jane Stanford Way as of Oct. 7, honoring the university’s co-founder and implementing a proposal that came out of a review of campus historical names last year.

a view of Serra Mall toward Hoover Tower from near top of Oval

Serra Mall will be renamed Jane Stanford Way, effective Oct. 7, following clearance by Santa Clara County and the U.S. Postal Service. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

Jane Stanford Way, a pedestrian and bicycle mall, will run across the front of the Stanford campus from Campus Drive West to Campus Drive East, and the university’s official address will change from 450 Serra Mall to 450 Jane Stanford Way.

“With this step, a prominent thoroughfare at the front door of our campus will now honor Jane Stanford, whose vision and strength played a central role in guiding and sustaining the university during its critical early years,” said Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne.

The proposal recently received the necessary clearance from the U.S. Postal Service, Santa Clara County Communications and the Santa Clara County Surveyor’s Office, which set the official date for the name change.

Matthew Tiews, associate vice president for campus engagement, has been working with a variety of campus partners on the effort. He said a campus event celebrating the change is being planned for fall quarter. In addition to changing the official street signs along Jane Stanford Way, interpretive signage also is planned to explain the name change and describe Jane Stanford’s legacy, he said.

Outcome of review process

Last year, a campus committee proposed renaming some, but not all, campus features named for Father Junipero Serra, who founded the California mission system in the 18th century.

Jane Lathrop Stanford (Image credit: Stanford University Archives)

The committee noted that all historical figures have multidimensional legacies, but that Serra’s role as the clearly identified leader of the mission system continues to provide a reminder to the university’s Native American community of the harmful impacts of the mission system on indigenous peoples. The committee also noted that Serra played no personal role in Stanford’s history, though he and the mission system played a significant role in California’s history.

One of the campus features identified for renaming was Serra Mall. The committee’s proposals were accepted by the president and Board of Trustees. Tessier-Lavigne proposed using the Serra Mall renaming to honor Jane Stanford, who founded the university with her husband Leland and steered it through financially challenging times after her husband’s death in 1893, but whose name until now has not been on any major campus feature.

Serra Mall, which last year was extended in length as a pedestrian and bicycle mall, will become Jane Stanford Way, effective Oct. 7. Meanwhile, Serra Street from Campus Drive East to El Camino Real will retain its current name, reflecting the committee’s recommendation that preserving its name would honor the Stanfords’ desire to recognize a significant period of California history and would prevent history from being erased from the campus. New signage along the street will allow for reflection on Serra’s complex legacy and its place within the university’s institutional history.

Two buildings on campus, the Serra undergraduate dormitory in Stern Hall and the Serra House academic building, already have been renamed Sally Ride House and Carolyn Lewis Attneave House, respectively.

“This process has been an opportunity not only to grapple with issues of historical legacy but to celebrate the contributions of new people,” Tiews said. “The Native American community has been an exceptional partner throughout this process. In addition to the renamings, we are pursuing new ways of honoring the contributions of Native Americans at Stanford and the fact that the university’s lands are the homeland of the Muwekma Ohlone people.”

Implementing the name change

Departments that currently use a mailing address that includes Serra Mall will be affected by the name change to Jane Stanford Way. The university’s official address starting Oct. 7 will be 450 Jane Stanford Way, reflecting the location of the Main Quad. Separately, the university also will be improving directional signage around the Main Quad to help people navigate the building numbers used throughout the Main Quad.

Tiews and other university staff are working with affected schools and departments on name change logistics for buildings up and down the new Jane Stanford Way, between Campus Drive West and Campus Drive East. Tiews and school deans’ offices are available as a resource for those with questions.

Among the changes, Tiews said: Affected departments will need to update websites with the new address. They’ll need to provide a change of address to vendors and others who mail or ship materials to them, and a template is being provided to help them do so.

The university is encouraging departments to move to digital templates for letterhead if they have not already. To support sustainability, any existing printed letterhead with the old address should be used until supplies are exhausted, Tiews said. Likewise, business cards should be updated on departments’ normal cycle.