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(19) How Stanford University Started


Judgment--True Story

A lady in a faded gingham dress and her husband, dressed in a homespun threadbare suit, stepped off the train in Boston, and walked timidly without an appointment into the president's outer office.

The secretary could tell in a moment that such backwoods, country hicks had no business at Harvard and probably didn't even deserve to be in Cambridge.

She frowned. "We want to see the president," the man said softly.

"He'll be busy all day," the secretary snapped.

"We'll wait," the lady replied. For hours, the secretary ignored them, hoping that the couple would finally become discouraged and go away. They didn't. And the secretary grew frustrated and finally decided to disturb the president, even though it was a chore she always regretted to do.

"Maybe if they just see you for a few minutes, they'll leave," she told him.

And he sighed in exasperation and nodded. Someone of his importance obviously didn't have the time to spend with them, but he detested gingham dresses and homespun suits cluttering up his outer office.

The president, stern-faced with dignity, strutted toward the couple.

The lady told him, "We had a son that attended Harvard for one year. He loved Harvard. He was happy here. But about a year ago, he was accidentally killed. And my husband and I would like to erect a memorial to him, somewhere on campus."

The president wasn't touched, he was shocked. "Madam," he said gruffly. "We can't put up a statue for every person who attended Harvard and died. If we did, this place would look like a cemetery."

"Oh, no," the lady explained quickly. "We don't want to erect a statue. We thought we would like to give a building to Harvard."

The president rolled his eyes. He glanced at the gingham dress and homespun suit, then exclaimed "A building! Do you have any earthly idea how much a building costs? We have over seven and a half million dollars in the physical plant at Harvard."

For a moment the lady was silent.

The president was pleased. He could get rid of them now.

And the lady turned to her husband and said quietly, "Is that all it costs to start a University? Why don't we just start our own?"

Her husband nodded.

The president's face wilted in confusion and bewilderment.

And Mr. and Mrs. Leland Stanford walked away, traveling to Palo Alto, California where they established the University that bears their name, a memorial to a son that Harvard no longer cared about.

You can easily judge the character of others by how they treat those who can do nothing for them or to them.

--Malcolm Forbes

The Right Version about the lose of Leland, Jr., his only child.

Young Leland loved the life on the Palo Alto ranch. He kept dogs and horses, knew all about the farm machinery and built a miniature railroad with 400 feet of track in the arboretum that adjoined the country home. He was a tall, slender youth­taller at 15 than his fathers' 5;10"­and studious. He spoke French fluently and, on trips to Europe with his parents, developed his passion for collecting in art and archaeology.

The family was in Italy in 1884 when Leland contracted typhoid fever. He was thought to be recovering, but on March 13 at the Hotel Bristol in Florence, Leland's bright and promising young life came to an end, a few weeks before his 16th birthday.

Stanford, who had remained at Leland's' bedside continuously, fell into a troubled sleep the morning the boy died. When he awakened he turned to his wife and said, "The children of California shall be our children."

These words were the real beginning of Stanford University.

(Please go to this site to obtain more about the history of Leland Stanford and his contribution to Stanford University.)

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