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Wednesday, June 15, 2016


I've determined that I can't save Planet Earth and Humanity.  What about Stanford University?

After 16 years as president of Stanford University, John Hennessy will pass on this responsibility to Marc Tessier-Lavigne (right), an outsider who never went to school or taught or administered there.  Sixteen years represent an incredibly long run as head of a major university.  Needless to say, Stanford became a better institution during his reign.  To quote Hennessy:

Who would have ever guessed we'd go to multiple Rose Bowls and still have a football team that has a 99% graduation rate.

What Stanford has been able to do is combine athletics and academics better than any university in the world:
  • Since 1994-5, Stanford has continuously held the NACDA Director's Cup, awarded to the college with the most success in collegiate athletics.  That is 21 straight years!
  • Academically
    • Has the lowest acceptance rate of applicants at 4.7%.  Second is Harvard with 5.2%.
    • Highest admission yield at 81.1%, with Harvard #2 at 80%.  The University of Chicago is #10 with 60%.  That is, 81.1% of those accepted by Stanford actually become students there.
    • Business Insider gives Stanford the highest score (4.15) for best preparing its students for success in life.  MIT is #2 with a score of 4.12 and Caltech #3 with 3.96.
    • Council for Aid in Education reported on fundraising in 2015:
      • Stanford  $1.63 billion
      • Harvard  $1.05 billion
      • University of Southern California $0.65 billion
    • The Daily Beast's Guide to the Best College
      • #1  Stanford
      • #2  Harvard
      • #3  Yale
    • Money magazine
      • #1  Stanford
      • #2  Babson
      • #3 MIT
    • Niche rankings:
      • #1  Stanford
      • #2  MIT
      • #3  Harvard

    • Princeton Review of Dream Colleges (parents)
      • #1  Stanford 
      • #2  Harvard
      • #3  New York University
    • Princeton Review of Dream Colleges (students)
      • #1  Stanford
      • #2  Harvard
      • #3  Princeton
    • Parchment Revealed Preference Rankings
      • #1  Stanford (2311)
      • #2  MIT (2299)
      • #3  Harvey Mudd (2188)
    • University Entrepreneur Report (# of venture capital or angel deals, 2007-2011)
      • #1  Stanford  (203)
      • #2  Harvard  (112)
      • #3  Cal Berkeley (90)
Mind you, Stanford is not #1 in everything:
  • The Economist picked Washington and Lee in terms of value gained from going there, with Babson College at #2.
  • Forbes selected Pomona College as the best, with Williams next and Stanford #3.
  • Social Mobility Index (#1 Montana Tech, #2 Rowan University, #3 Florida A&M)
  • TrendTopper MediaBuzz College Guide (#1 MIT, #2 UCLA, #3 Cal Berkeley)
  • TTMB liberal colleges (#1 Wesleyan, #2 School of the Art Institute of Chicago, #3 College of the Holy Cross)
  • U.S. News and World Report College and University Rankings
    • #1  Princeton
    • #2  Harvard
    • #3  Yale
    • #4  Stanford
  • U.S. News and World Report (liberal arts colleges)
    • Williams College
    • Amherst College
    • Swarthmore College
  • The Washington Monthly National University Rankings (#1 University of California at San Diego, liberal arts #1 Bryn Mawr College)
Here is how a university president becomes special.  Stanford hosted violinist Itzhak Perlman, who told Hennessy:

Mr. President, Stanford is a great University, but you have terrible performance facilities.

So is President Hennessy upset?  Nope, he said that was a gift.  He went to his alumni, and $50 million later, they now have Bing Concert Hall, adding to their Palo Alto Campus now being the arts destination of the Bay Area.

So will 63-year old John Hennessy retire?  I did at 59.  Wow, that was 17 years ago.  No, Hennessy gets $400 million from Phil Knight (who got his MBA from Stanford the year I earned my BS there), Nike founder who made University of Oregon's athletic program fabulous, and Stanford announces the Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program, to do good for the world.

Starting in 2018, full funding will be bestowed for three years to 100 of the top students initiating graduate studies in a range of fields.  Those heading on for PhDs or MDs will be guaranteed funding until they get their degrees.  

The quality sought is promise for future leadership roles in society.  Another alumni, Robert King, donated an additional $100 million just for students from developing nations.  Board of Trustee Chairman Steven Denning tossed in an extra $50 million to construct Denning House, to be the hub for those Knight-Hennessy-King scholars.  By 2022 there could well be nearly 400 graduate students on campus representing the finest the world can offer to make a definite difference for Planet Earth and Humanity when  the are unleashed to do their best.  

So what can Stanford University do to Save Planet Earth and Humanity?  Being the preeminent combined institution of higher learning for academics and athletics is in itself incredible.  What next?  The matter of decisive governments, cultural conflicts, global warming and the like are opportunities awaiting answers.  Simple good leadership could well be the solution.  I somehow now feel better about our future.


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