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Saturday, November 25, 2017


Four years ago I posted on:

Let's start with one discouraging statement:  if you got perfect Scholastic Aptitude Test scores, you only had a 41% chance of being accepted.

  • applicants:  44,073
  • admitted:      2,085 (4.7%, or one in 21 applicants)
  • enrolled:       1,708
  • women:         51%
  • men:              49%
  • 69 countries and 48 states
For the first time in history (380 years), Harvard's Class of 2021 has a majority of minorities (50.8%).  Can't yet find Stanford's percentage, but of 7,034 undergraduates, 2,545 are White / non-Hispanic, placing the minority representation at 64%.

Cost?  $69,109 (tuition, fees, room, board and expected expenses)/year.

Under Stanford’s generous financial aid program, which the university expanded in 2015, families with total annual income below $125,000 and typical assets for this income range will pay no tuition. Parents will be ensured that all tuition charges are covered with need-based scholarships, federal and state grants and/or outside scholarship funds, so that the expected parent contribution is only for room, board and other expenses. Typical parents with annual income below $65,000 are not expected to contribute anything toward educational cost.

Best as I can determine, in my freshman year (1958), the tuition was $1005.  The total cost, using tuition as the ratio factor, then would have been $1418/year. I think my scholarship essentially waived the tuition, and, in addition, they provided a 10 hours/week job to man the rare book room.  No one ever went into that room, so I could study and get paid for it.  I don't recall finances ever being a real problem, for I spent my summers working at the Naval Civil Engineering Laboratory (thanks to my older brother), and lived with his family in Oxnard, California.  My parents provided any necessary extra needs.

Before going into my life at Stanford, let me summarize the lead article in the September issue of STANFORD, where, on the cover, was a quote:


The first couple of paragraphs indicate the social state of the USA was during that period:

By Roy Johnson
In September 1962, a student named James Meredith showed up on the campus of the University of Mississippi to register for classes. Although it had been eight years since Brown v. Board of Education, in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that segregation in public schools was unconstitutional, Ole Miss still admitted only white students.

Meredith, a native Mississippian and an Air Force veteran, was African-American.
Segregationists blocked the entrance to the administration building and a white mob surrounded Meredith, taunting and jeering him. In the following days, President John F. Kennedy sent federal troops to the Oxford campus to quell rioting and enforce a Supreme Court ruling that upheld Meredith’s admission. On October 1, Meredith became the first black student to enroll at the school.

But, mind you, I began my Stanford education in 1958, and the first Stanford Black class above started in 1962, the year I graduated.  That is not how they looked then, of course, and there were seven, by far the largest African-American (A-A) group of freshman in Stanford history.  To summarize (the blue remarks are by me):
  • They experienced little outright hostility (same for me).
  • While they mostly felt isolated, they found their time on campus to be fruitful and enjoyable (I never felt isolated, for I was always part of some group--Asians in those days were considered to be White).
  • Note that two are missing in the above photo because they did have problems and declined to be interviewed.
  • By 1968 A-A enrollment increased ten-fold.  That was the year when Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated, and the Black Student Union presented ten demands, nine which the university met. Which one wasn't met?  Read the 9April1968 Stanford Daily.
  • For the freshmen who arrived at the Farm 55 years ago, though, there were no such milestone moments, no organized activist movements around race issues. They were pioneers, lonely swimmers in a sea of whiteness, doing their best to coexist — and succeed — in a world that did not always want them.
  • Sandra Drake (photo when she was on the faculty):  did not recall even meeting with any A-As in her class, remained mostly reclusive, went on to a doctorate and until 2004 taught A-A studies in the Stanford English Department. (Once a girl came up to me and said: “I’ve never talked to a Negro.” We were “Negroes” back then.)  One male colleague, who was supposed to vote on my entry into the department, walked up to me and said: “Do they read in the Caribbean?” I just didn’t know what to say(I was doing poorly in my English composition class as a freshman.  My teacher called me in and asked if English was spoken in Hawaii.  I indicated, well, it is a kind of Pidgin English.  I only got A's and B's after that discussion.)
  • Paul Rose:  had mixed feelings about his student experience, made no real friends and went on to become a lawyer. (My closest friends on the mainland are my freshmen dormitory floor roommates.  We get together frequently.  All are, of course, White.  I don't remember even one  Japanese colleague in my Class of '62, and don't recall ever seeing an A-A on campus...ever, in four years.)
  • Ira Hall:  I did not go to Stanford for love. I did not go for the social life. I was not surprised that I did not find a welcoming environment ready to love me. I came to learn about the kind of environment I would probably go into as a professional. I didn’t expect it to be welcoming, either. I wanted to be an executive, so I knew I would be in charge of people not like me. I had to get to know about them, and I expected them to learn about me.  Hall is the person quoted on the front cover.  Had a successful Wall Street career and endowed a scholarship at Stanford.
  • Alexander Lewis Jr:  was a military brat who was the first A-A to join a fraternity (Phi Sigma Kappa), loved the experience, went on to Harvard for an MBA, ended up in Hawaii in special education and never went to a Stanford reunion (Never met him in Hawaii, and also never have been to a class reunion, but that is because there is small group of classmates living around San Francisco I see annually, and they all don't like Stanford reunions.  I'm trying to get them to one next year, our 60th reunion when we first met as freshmen.)
  • Roger Clay:  played football, and thought John Ralston was racist, but not Bill Walsh.  I didn’t expect a lot of black people to be at Stanford, but I expected a few. When I went home, I told my mother everyone was white; even the ditch diggers were white.  Eventually got a law degree and become a prominent member of the Stanford alumni.
How did I get into Stanford?  That was a miracle.  No doubt my current proclivities with fantasy and Saving Planet Earth and Humanity can be traced back to this point in my life.  At Central Intermediate School, if I had to place myself in the 9th grade graduating class, I would have been below average.  1956-1957 was a pivotal period:
  • My family moved from Kakaako to Kalihi.  I lost contact with my neighborhood gang.
  • I began to make perfect scores on standardized tests and my teachers encouraged me to become the best.
  • I was elected vice-president of the Senior Class.
  • I became a successful tennis player for the McKinley High School team.
  • I scored in the bottom 10 percentile in an eighth grade verbal exam, and this was confirmed in the Fall of 1956 when I took the practice College Boards, and my verbal score was somewhere in the high 200's (200-800 range).  I was expected to work in the pineapple cannery between my junior and senior years of high school, but I broke my wrist playing basketball in the later spring.  I made the best decisions of my life:  memorize all those words on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and apply only to Stanford and the California Institute of Technology. I was always near 800 on the math section, but my verbal score jumped from 200 something to near 650.  YOU CAN IMPROVE YOUR SAT SCORE WITH ONE SUMMER OF INTENSIVE STUDYING.  I got accepted at both universities and selected Stanford because it offered a more attractive financial package.
Here is my transition to Stanford.  I was out of my element, financially, socially and intellectually.  I was below average.  However, it turned out that Stanford tended to coddle their kind of average student.  

I studied more in my sophomore and junior years at McKinley than four years at Stanford.  Even though I was poor, that was not a social factor here.  It's almost like 15 Craigside, everything is pretty much paid-for, so we are all almost equal.  

While I majored in chemical engineering, I ended up taking about as many art classes as ChE courses.  My charcoals were great.

In our junior year, David Mason, our department chairman, rushed into one our classes and proudly announced we got accredited.  That was a shock, because none of us had ever thought to ask.  Ten years later the Stanford Chemical Engineering Department became #1 in the nation.  We started with 75 or so as freshman, and most transferred into the social sciences, so we only graduated something like eight.  In the beginning I was about average, and at the end, I was till average, except that the bottom 65 or so dropped out of chemical engineering.

I graduated (freshman roomie Jim in the middle, and John, who also lived on our floor, to the right) in less than four years, and in 50th Reunion Class of '62 Book, I said:


Upon graduation I observed that my high school classmates were better engineers from their education at the University of Hawaii.  However, I was able to communicate at a higher level--better appreciated music, art and culture in general--had a more worldly view of things--and, most important of all, had the confidence to be innovative and enterprising.

The key word is confidence.  I don't recall having any classmate or professor ever helping me in my professional life.  But Stanford kept getting better, Silicon Valley blossomed from cherry orchards, and just my presence there as a student did wonders for my career.

To the right is Jim today for our mini-reunion at Cathy's Napa home, with Bill, our next door neighbor, and his wife Sue, who was in our class.  John went on for a PhD and worked for a while at the East-West Center.  He now lives in Austin, Texas.

To the right, Jim and Cathy with family and friends, when we earlier this year visited Naalehu, the site of my first job in 1962 with the sugar industry.  We've met for lunch at Tadich Grill several times.

So how important was Stanford University?  Four years in a White-only environment trained me well, for my future jobs after graduation were mostly at the University Hawaii, and most administrators were Caucasian, while my stints in the Hawaiian sugar industry, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, NASA Ames Research Center and U.S. Senate all were equally dominated by Whites. Success is closely related to social comfort.  Stanford well prepared me for the rest of my life.  On the other hand, I'm now at 15 Craigside, where there are more than 90% Orientals, about the exact percentage I grew up with in Kakaako, so I am fine here.  Heaven?  I should do well there, too, if there is one.


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