End of an era for Stan­ford

De­part­ing pres­i­dent trans­formed the school over last 15 years

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Ja­son Song, Carla Rivera and Har­riet Ryan

In his 15 years at the helm of Stan­ford, Pres­i­dent John L. Hen­nessy has more than dou­bled the uni­ver­sity’s en­dow­ment, seen its un­der­grad­u­ate pro­gram dis­place Har­vard as the most se­lec­tive school in the na­tion and fos­tered a sym­bi­otic re­la­tion­ship be­tween cam­pus brains and Sil­i­con Val­ley money that cre­ated tech dar­lings such as Snapchat and Instagram.

But asked to re­call his proud­est mo­ment Fri­day, the day af­ter he an­nounced plans to step down, Hen­nessy did not cite his im­pres­sive fundrais­ing or the pro­fes­sors and stu­dents who have be­come In­ter­net roy­alty. In­stead, he re­called the de­ci­sion seven years ago to make Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity af­ford­able for poor and mid­dle-class stu­dents. The school waived tu­ition for fam­i­lies with in­comes less than $100,000 and gave free room and board to those earn­ing less than $60,000.

“We be­lieved it was the right mes­sage: If you can get into Stan­ford, we will make it pos­si­ble for you to at­tend, no mat­ter your fam­ily cir­cum­stances,” Hen­nessy said. (The school sub­se­quently raised the cut­off lev­els to $125,000 and $65,000.) “I re­ceived more pos­i­tive alumni let­ters about this de­ci­sion than any oth­ers.”

Sev­eral other high-pro­file schools, in­clud­ing Har­vard and Yale, of­fer sim­i­lar pro­grams.

As word spread that Hen­nessy, 62, was leav­ing next year, Stan­ford col­leagues, alumni and peers in academia lauded him as one of the most ef­fec­tive and

trans­for­ma­tional higher ed­u­ca­tion lead­ers in a gen­er­a­tion. They de­scribed his ap­point­ment to the post in 2000 as the right per­son (an ac­com­plished com­puter sci­en­tist who had founded his own com­pany) at the right time (the ma­tur­ing of the start-up econ­omy) in the right place (Palo Alto).

“He brought that back­ground to Stan­ford at a point where tech­nol­ogy ex­po­nen­tially changed the world we live in,” said Terry W. Hartle, a se­nior vice pres­i­dent at the Amer­i­can Coun­cil on Ed­u­ca­tion, which rep­re­sents the pres­i­dents of U.S. higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions. “The ba­sic ques­tion of any uni­ver­sity pres­i­dent is, did you leave it a bet­ter place and by any rea­son­able mea­sure, the an­swer in John’s case is ab­so­lutely.”

Un­like many uni­ver­sity ad­min­is­tra­tors, whose sway wanes be­yond the school grounds, Hen­nessy held enor­mous in­flu­ence out­side the cam­pus gates. As a com­puter science pro­fes­sor and later the dean of the en­gi­neer­ing school, Hen­nessy worked closely with many stu­dents who went on to be­come in­dus­try gi­ants, in­clud­ing Sergey Brin and Larry Page of Google, and Ya­hoo co-founder Jerry Yang.

He en­cour­aged tech ex­ec­u­tives and ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists, many of whom were alumni, to spend time on cam­pus, teach­ing cour­ses, act­ing as men­tors and lis­ten­ing to fund­ing pitches from stu­dents. The power to connect bril­liant young stu­dents with es­tab­lished in­dus­try fig­ures hun­gry for the next new thing made him an im­por­tant player.

A 2012 New Yorker ar­ti­cle about the school’s re­la­tion­ship with Sil­i­con Val­ley quoted renowned ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist Marc An­dreessen: “John Hen­nessy is the god­fa­ther of Sil­i­con Val­ley.” The ar­ti­cle noted that when Pres­i­dent Obama vis­ited the area in 2011 to meet with lead­ers such as Mark Zucker­berg of Face­book and for­mer Ap­ple chief Steve Jobs, Hen­nessy was the only non-in­dus­try fig­ure in­vited.

Yang, who heads the ven­ture fund AME Cloud Ven­tures, called Hen­nessy “a huge inf lu­encer” in Sil­i­con Val­ley.

“When tech lead­ers get to­gether with John, they lis­ten to him,” Yang, a ma­jor donor and uni­ver­sity trustee, told the Times on Fri­day.

Yang, who for­merly served on Cisco’s board with Hen­nessy, said the pres­i­dent’s long-term busi­ness ex­pe­ri­ence, cou­pled with his years of teach­ing, al­lows Hen­nessy to give cru­cial ad­vice to young en­trepreneurs about how to “grow compa- nies from zero to thou­sands of em­ploy­ees.”

Hen­nessy be­gan teach­ing elec­tri­cal en­gi­neer­ing at Stan­ford in 1977 but took a sab­bat­i­cal in 1984 to co-form MIPS Com­puter Sys­tems, which was sold eight years later for $333 mil­lion.

Af­ter found­ing MIPS, Hen­nessy re­turned to Stan­ford and taught be­fore be­com­ing dean of the School of En­gi­neer­ing, then rose through the ranks be­fore be­com­ing pres­i­dent.

Dur­ing his time at Stan­ford, Hen­nessy sat on sev­eral boards, in­clud­ing Cisco’s and Google’s — which drew some crit­i­cism from fac­ulty who said the po­si­tions would give cor­po­ra­tions un­due in­flu­ence on cam­pus — and in­vested in ven­ture-cap­i­tal firms. A 2007 Wall Street Jour­nal ar­ti­cle re­ported that Hen­nessy earned $43 mil­lion dur­ing the pre­vi­ous five years.

“In my view, pres­i­dents should avoid even the ap­pear­ance of con­flict of in­ter­est,” said De­bra Satz, the se­nior as­so­ciate dean for hu­man­i­ties and arts.

She said that while she still ob­jected to his sit­ting on com­pany boards, Hen­nessy had won her over with the re­spect he showed fac­ulty mem­bers across de­part­ments. Satz re­called him com­ing to her of­fice be­fore he as­sumed the pres­i­dency to dis­cuss, among other things, her ex­pe­ri­ences as a fe­male pro­fes­sor.

“No­body had ever asked to see me in that way,” Satz said. “It was em­blem­atic of his open­ness.”

As sto­ries of un­der­grads launch­ing start-ups in dorms be­came more and more familiar, the al­ready well-re­spected Stan­ford be­came in­creas­ingly al­lur­ing to elite high school stu­dents. In 2000, the year Hen­nessy was el­e­vated from provost to pres­i­dent, about 18,000 stu­dents sent in ap­pli­ca­tions. Last year, more than 40,000 sought ad­mis­sion.

The ad­mis­sion rate last year was about 5%, mak­ing en­trance to Stan­ford slightly more dif­fi­cult than tra­di­tional stan­dard bear­ers in the Ivy League.

In the fis­cal year of 2001, Hen­nessy’s first as pres­i­dent, the school re­ceived nearly $470 mil­lion in gifts. Last year, the school re­ceived about $930 mil­lion.

Ni­cole Gra­cie, a Long Beach ed­u­ca­tional con­sul­tant who coun­sels par­ents and stu­dents on the ad­mis­sions process, said Stan­ford’s pop­u­lar­ity among her clients had in­creased in re­cent years, in part be­cause of the school’s rep­u­ta­tion for turn­ing out grad­u­ates with many well-pay­ing job of­fers from tech firms.

“Par­ents want to se­cure their chil­dren’s fu­ture,” she said. “There is this feel­ing that there are amaz­ing pro­fes­sors and, af­ter­ward, amaz­ing jobs at amaz­ing com­pa­nies.”

Stan­ford of­fi­cials said they planned to con­duct an in­ter­na­tional search for his re­place­ment.

‘He brought that back­ground to Stan­ford at a point where tech­nol­ogy ex­po­nen­tially changed the world we live in.’

— Terry W. Hartle,

Amer­i­can Coun­cil on Ed­u­ca­tion

Ni­cholas Kamm AFP/Getty Images

HEN­NESSY with Pres­i­dent Obama at a round­table with busi­ness lead­ers at Stan­ford in Fe­bru­ary. Hen­nessy has been called “the god­fa­ther of Sil­i­con Val­ley.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.