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Saturday, March 15, 2014

STANFORD HITS THE SWEET SPOT

I've been in education all my life.  At the higher education level, there is always the tug of war between academics and athletics.  Stanford University has to be #1 in balancing both.  Well, their mascot can use a serious make-over

I've now had an office on the Manoa Campus of the University of Hawaii for 42 years.  We are ranked #158 by the latest U.S. News and World Report publication on this subject.  Stanford was #5 (with Princeton #1), but was in the top three in most of the graduate fields.  Stanford is #1 on the latest Forbes' ranking of America's Top Universities, which measured student satisfaction and post-graduate success.  The top ten were:

RANKNAME/STATE
1Stanford University, CA
2Pomona College, CA
3Princeton University, NJ
4Yale University, CT
5Columbia University, NY
6Swarthmore College, PA
7United States Military Academy, NY
8Harvard University, MA
9Williams College, MA
10Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MA

Interesting that Pomona is #2 and West Point #7.  Sad to say, but the University of Hawaii is #384, yet better than the University of Nevada at Reno (#387), University of Central Florida (#405), University of Nevada at Las Vegas (#501), Oral Roberts (#577) and Boise State University (#591), with Oklahoma Wesleyan University holding the bottom at #650.

Okay, no question that Stanford does well, academically.  However, where it excels is in athletics.  There was once the Sears Cup for college athletics.  This became the Director's Cup, and is now known as the Learfield Sports Director's Cup.  The winner for 19 straight years is Stanford, with in 2013 Florida #2 and Michigan #3.  Hawaii led the Big West, placing #107, with the Rainbow Wahines the reason why "we did so well," relatively, at least, to that ignominious #384.

The competition is a joint effort between the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics and USA Today.  Twenty different sports, ten women's and 10 men's, are involved in the tally.  You never heard of them, but Learfield Sports is the leader in collegiate sports marketing.

Thus, Stanford has hit the sweet spot in accommodating both athletics and academics.  This is already too long a posting, but let me end with a couple of items from our latest alumni newsletter:

  • President John Hennessy bragged about student-athletes.  Stanford has won at least one national championship for 37 consecutive years.  From 1976 to 2012, Stanford athletes won 143 Olympic medals, 71 gold.
  • Multitalented Chiney Ogwumike is captain of the women's basketball team, and could well be selected as the top national player this year.  She spent eight weeks in Nigeria (from where her parents came) to coach and teach underprivileged youths, has a freestyle rap video, Nerd City Kids, (go ahead, click on it!), sparking the Nerd Nation Movement, touting that you can be successful in both the classroom and court/field, and is mentored by Professor Condoleeza Rice, who, by the way, is the only female on the new 13-member College Football Playoff selection committee.
  • Paramount to all the above is a feature article about Kenny Washington and Sigma Chi.  In 1964 Congress passed the Civil Rights Act.  In 1965 Washington was one of ten African-Americans in the freshman class.  (Now up to 10%, but 21% Asians, and in my day I doubt if there were 10 Asians.)  Founded in 1855, the national Sigma Chi never had a black member.  The Stanford chapter asked him to join their fraternity.  They were kicked out and only returned in l974.  They forever opened up membership into fraternities/sororities.  While Kenny (now Keni) suffered and possibly never graduated, he was an invited speaker at their 45th reunion last year.  Washington criticized Mitt Romney, a freshman classmate.  The final three paragraphs from the article:
Maybe the Stanford chapter was full of upstarts, says Kerns, but there was no intent to embarrass Sigma Chi or make a national statement. "We were just kids who thought race was a non-factor," he says. That's what brotherhood and fellowship meant. That's what a fraternity meant.
Rush Moody, '14, the recent president of Stanford's Sigma Chi chapter, doesn't know Keni Washington. But he knows of him.
"New pledges have to learn the history of the chapter," he says, "and what happened with Ken Washington is a point of pride: Don't be afraid to do what's right."
Maybe more than academics and athletics, here is where Stanford shines.  DON'T BE AFRAID TO DO WHAT'S RIGHT!

I'll end with a photo taken 52 years ago at our graduation.  John Laing (right) went into the Peace Corps, where he met co-PC wife Marie, and they adopted two children from the Philippines, where they were sent.  They all now live in Austin, Texas.  John went on to earn a PhD from the University of Chicago and spent some time at the East-West Center.  Jim Seger was my freshman roommate, was shipped to the Ivory Coast for his Peace Corps assignment, learned French there (so he now annually lives in Paris for part of each summer) and now teaches English at the University of California at Berkeley.


As many of my closest classmates went into the Peace Corps, I had to do something similar.  So while they commanded a monthly stipend of around $100/month, I got $500/month for attempting to save the Hawaiian sugar industry in Naalehu, the southernmost community of the USA.  I failed, but I don't think they accomplished anything much better.

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