Document 91899

Newsletter of the Stanford Historical Society
Volume 9, No. 4, Summer 1985
Chancellor J.E. Wallace Sterling died July 1, 1985. This issue of
Sandstone and Tile is dedicated to his memory.
Coverage relating to Chancellor Sterling includes:
The Sterling years at Stanford................................................. 3-11
Excerpts of a dissertation by Frank Medeiros
Obituary ..........................................................................................
A legacy of transformation for a university
Three chancellors in 94 years
David Starr Jordan, Ray Lyman Wilbur, and J.E. Wallace Sterling
Sterling's memorial service.............
More than 1,000 attend. By Bob Beyers
Memorial service tributes ........................................................
Texts of remarks by William Sterling, Morris M. Doyle, and Donald Kennedy
Tributes from newspapers ............................................................
Texts of Los Angeles Times and San Jose Mercury-News editorials
Tributes from Stanford officials ............................................ 20-21
University and board presidents praise Sterling
The lighter side of Sterling ....................
. . . . . . ............. 22
Anecdotes about Wally and Ann Sterling by Don Carlson
COVER PHOTOGRAPH: Official portrait of Stanford's new president, ).E. Wallace
Sterling, at his desk in April 1949. By Moulin Studios of San Francisco
The Sterlin years at Stanfor
by Frank Medeiros
Sterling: the man and scholar
With the unexpected death of Stanford University President Donald B. Tresidder in 1948, the Board of Trustees
was once again faced with the task of selecting a president.
The search was undertaken in February 1948, conducted by
a Trustee committee of seven with assistance from separate
faculty and alumni advisory committees. As had been the
case just six years earlier, the Trustees searched widely.
Again, the final outcome revealed a choice close to home:
J.E. Wallace Sterling,' a former Stanford student and broadly acquainted with faculty and alumni, was invited to become the University's fifth president in November 1948. He
assumed office at the age of 42 in April of the following year
for what was to be, in the tradition of presidents David Starr
Jordan and Ray Lyman Wilbur, a relatively long term of
more than 19 years.
Sterling was born in rural Linwood, Ontario, Canada, in
1906, two years after his family's emigration from England.
Sterling's undergraduate days were spent at the University
of Toronto, where he received the Bachelor of Arts degree
in history in 1927. Following graduation. Sterling served
for a year as a lecturer at Regina College in Saskatchewan.
During 1928-1930, he taught history and coached football
and basketball at the University of Alberta while studying
for his Master's degree.
Sterling's connection with Stanford arose out of the extensive historical collection offered by the Hoover Institu-
- -
This article is excerpted from a dissertation, The Sterling
Years at Stanford: A Study in the Dynamics of Institutional
Change, O 1979 by Frank A. Medeiros. Reprinted with permission of the author. Medieros received his Ph.D. in education
from Stanford in 1979, specializing in administration and
policy analysis. He earned a bachelor's degree in 1967 and
master's in 1969, both in history from San Francisco State
University. He has been associate vice president for academic
affairs at San Diego State University since 1980 and teaches
there part-time. His areas of expertise include administration
and management, organization theory, and European and
Russian history.
Sterling, second from right, with his History Department
colleagues at Stanford in 1937
tion and Library and, in an indirect way, his continuing
interest in athletics. He accepted a coaching contract with
the town of Calgary because, among other reasons, it was
possible through the quarter system to attend Stanford to
pursue graduate work and to return to Canada each autumn. Having coached the 1930 season at Calgary, he came
to Stanford in December; the Depression ended his contract
and coaching plans, however, and he remained at Stanford
for nearly seven years. Sterling served as a research assistant in the Hoover Library from 1932 to 1937, the last two
years of which he also taught history. He was awarded the
Ph.D. in January 1938.
From teaching, research and graduate study at Stanford,
Sterling moved to the California Institute of Technology in
1937 as an assistant professor of history. He spent the
academic year 1939-1940 in Canada on a social science
research fellowship studying that country's European immigrant situation. After returning to Cal Tech in the fall of
1940, Sterling was promoted to full professor in 1942. By
1944, his institutional reputation was such that he was
elected chairman of the faculty. In addition to these activi-
A roundtable discussion moderated by Sterling for a CBS
radio broadcast on the United Nations San Francisco
conference, 1945. From left, William L. Shirer, Major George
Fielding Ellot, Sterling, Robert Trout, and Bill Henry
ties, Sterling served as a news analyst for the CBS radio
network from 1942 until 1948; among the events he covered
were the Republican national convention and the United
Nations conference. During the autumn of 1947, Sterling
was also a member of the resident civilian faculty of the
National War College in Washington, D.C.
In July 1948, Sterling was appointed Director of the Hunt-
ington Library and Art Gallery at San Marino, California. At
the time, he had four writing commitments and was engaged in a host of other scholarly and administrative concerns. Sterling clearly did not seek the presidency of Stanford, yet less than five months after his new appointment
the Trustees had prevailed upon him to accept this post; it
was, as it turned out, a fateful decision for both Sterling and
Possessed of intelligence, urbane manners, wit, and
generous good sense, Sterling was in many ways the perfect
choice to provide Stanford with sound leadership. Conversely, the University as it was situated in 1949 provided
Sterling with an appropriately fluid forum in which to
exercise his particular talents. The case for this fortunate
match was perhaps most succinctly put by Herbert Hoover
at Sterling's inauguration in 1949: "Character, understanding, scholarship, administrative ability, and love of youth
are all combined in him. Stanford will march ahead under
his leadership."'
No one could have possibly anticipated at the time just
how far Stanford University was to progress in the years
ahead. In 1949, Sterling's presidency represented only a
promise of things yet to come. For his part, through an
intensely personal style and institutional identification reminiscent of a much earlier day in the University's history,
Sterling's mission was to fulfill the promise he envisioned
for stanford.
1948: from left, Sterling,
's presidency
Sterling assumed the duties of the presidency of Stanford
In April 1949 well aware that :he overall situation in which
the 'ilniversity found itself was by no means altogether
positive. As a member of the "Stanford Family" through his
association with the University in the '30s. Sterling was
widely acquainted with faculty and alumni an
fore maintained a continuing contact wit
HA;irrived at Stanford, then, with a feeling for not only the
t also the problems he might reasonably exprospect" h
~ e c to
t encounter as President,
In terms of significant institutional
ford had rearhe6 what is S e ~described
as a plateau in :he
decade oi the wartime perrod. As the demands of that era
gave way 6 0 those created by enrolimenr pressures In the
frnmed~ateposiwar years, new strains on the i~stitution
had begun to make themselves felt. Stanford erne
the war with a rather strong departmental tra
also revealed serious slgm af defeatism on the part of
faculty. Vis~tingStanford in the summer of 19
rng was distressed by the "'poor talk" of faculty a
nistrators regarding Stanford's situations3Since
had engaged in only modest fund-raising activities for some
years, University finance was indeed a major problem to be
faced in the early postwar period of increased enrollment
and inflationarv messures: no doubt recognition
of this
problem contributed in some measure to the negativism
Sterling encountered on his visit.
While this generally low faculty morale may be judged to
have had some objective basis in terms of the scarcity of
resources, the most subjective matter of faculty perceptions
of the University administration may also be considered as
contributory. A substantial portion of the criticism expressed by faculty was directed toward Stanford's fourth President, Donald B. Tresidder (1943-1948).4In several respects,
Tresidder had perhaps more than his share of obstacles to
overcome, having accepted the presidency in early 1943.
He succeeded Ray Lyman Wilbur, a Stanford legend, who
had held the post for more than 25 years. Having taken over
the presidency in the midst of wartime, he had the difficult
task of guiding Stanford through the immediate postwar
years, during which the imposition of strict budget controls
inevitably engendered conflict. Moreover, both the form
and substance of his approach to education and administration indicated for some that he did not really understand
the working and mission of the University. This situation
led one contemporary observer later to judge that Tresidder
" . . . did not have the confidence of the faculty. His business orientation and his lack of experience as a professor
intensified the severity of this p r ~ b l e m . " ~
Despite the obviously negative impact that something
less than full faculty confidence in Tresidder must have
exerted, some of his accomplishments were to have lasting
influence. The same observer quoted above, in identifying
the positive aspects of Tresidder's presidency, indicated
It is my view that he did many things which have made Wally's
work easier. For example, he reorganized our School setup and
gave the Schools some vigorous leadership. He brought in some
Sterling being inaugurated in October 1949 by Board President
Paul 6. Edwards, editor of the San Francisco Mews
outstanding academic figures which represented an initial step
in the upgrading of the caliber of the faculty - efforts which
Wally has vigorously continued and expanded.
He accomplished the major and needed change of centralizing the President's authority over the business and controller
functions of the University, and improved greatly the University's business and accounting procedures. And he set up our
Planning Office, one of the first, we are told, to have been
established in a major University. . . .'
Certainly the abolition of the dual administration structure
(by which the President and Business Manager reported
separately to the Board of Trustees), for example, represented a positive step in the direction of effective administration, the organizational fruits of which Sterling inherited. Relatedly, the establishment of the offices of the Dean
of Students and Director of Planning in 1945 were also
forward-looking accomplishments. Earlier, as President of
the Board of Trustees, Tresidder had initiated a review of
Board procedures, an important outcome of which was the
annual election of the President to a maximum of five
consecutive years (Tresidder's predecessor had held the
office for 16 years); this action served to promote the
periodic infusion of new Board leadership for Stanford.
Perhaps Tresidder's most significant contribution to
Stanford, however, despite his rather poor relationship
with the faculty as a whole, derived from such additions to
faculty ranks as he was able to achieve. While the scope of
A veteran of radio reporting, Sterling is at ease during his E t press conference,
faculty recruitment during Tresidder's presidency was iimited due to budgetary constraints and a prevailing suspicion of central administration, some progress was unquestionably made in this area, thus providing his successor
with a base upon which to build. At the same time, the
effects of a deteriorated relationship between Stanford's
faculty and administration could not be overlooked by the
new President, indicating, to Sterling at least, the need for
some caution in the exercise of administrative leadership
in the early years of his presidency without clear faculty
Sterling's approach to education and administrative
style differed markedly from that of Tresidder and he recognized the need for rather extensive internal "fencemending" in order for Stanford to develop along the line he
envisioned. He addressed this problem quite directly in a
statement to the Board of Trustees describing his educational views:
I believe that the formulation of educational policy should be
made through exchange of views among the faculty and by
clear presentation of these views to the trustees. I believe that
the most intimate kind of cooperation between the faculty and
the administrative officers of the university whom the trustees
appoint is essential to the best formulation and execution of
educational policies.
. . . It is common knowledge that large faculties are frequently too readily given to the cliqueishness and sniping at trustees
and administrative officers. . . . One of the best means, it seems
to me, of overcoming such disadvantageous circumstances is to
oblige the faculty through its representatives to participate
strongly and deliberately in the formulation of university policy and, through participation, to accept responsibility. I venture the opinion that the broader the base of responsible faculty
participation, the less the bickering and the less the deleterious
effects of grapevine apprehensions.'
Although the expression of these sentiments regarding the
role of faculty in academic policymaking represented an
appropriate and welcome position in iight of Stanford's
situation in 1948, they also reflected the basic approach to
university governance that Sterling would employ
throughout his presidency. In many senses, Sterling's early
and sustained attention to the concerns of faculty contributed greatly to his effectiveness in providing institutional
leadership in the '50s and '60s.
Beyond his recognition of the need for improving faculty
morale at Stanford, Sterling perceived the matter of faculty
quality to be a central and pressing concern:
The standing and progress of any university is directly dependent in the first instance upon the quality of its faculty and
derivatively in the second instance upon the quality of its
student body. I recognize that financial conditions directly
affect the attainment of high quality in these related fields, but
assuming that financial conditions are such as to place no real
barrier in the way of high attainment, then every stress should
be placed on effort to build a faculty not merely of good men but
of the best men, and to attract and sustain a student body
capable of high academic performance. Stanford has ground to
gain in both these particulars.'
While this observation was intended as Sterling's considered assessment of the state of Stanford, it also conveys as
succinctly as any he ever made his belief in the centrality of
faculty quality to significant university development. With
regard to the matter of student quality in a period of increasing pressure toward expansion, Sterling's posture was
equally clear and concise:
I recognize that the university has a responsibility to society
and must therefore seriously consider extending its facilities to
as great a number of students as possible. I recognize also,
however, that over-extension in this direction may adversely
qualify progress toward optimum goals. The criterion by which
decisions in this line are made should be, I submit, improvement of what exists and not expansion for the sake of
From the very beginning, then, Sterling's conception of
expansion - whether expressed with reference to students, faculty, or to programs - represepted essentially a
qualitative rather than a quantitative view of the academic
enterprise; it was just this view that sparked his overall
vision of Stanford becoming a major center of educational
As the statements cited above indicate, Sterling arrived at
Stanford with definite notions as to the institution's condition and potential; it remained for him as President to
derive appropriate courses of action based on these notions. Such action also evolved, ho.wever, in the context of
changing institutional considerations; thus, while Sterling
had himself identitied many of the tasks before him, certain
broad requirements may be seen in retrospect to have
emerged more from situational imperatives than from any
preconceived plans. One scholar has characterized these
imperatives in the following manner:
President Sterling, during his administration, faced three
major tasks. The first was to revise the several structures at
Stanford to cope with the expansive period which lay ahead;
secondly, to develop a style of administration with which he
could be comfortable; and thirdly, to prepare for an orderly
change in the powers of the various constituencies made necessary by the profound changes in the American universities in
the 1960s.1°
With respect to the first two of these tasks, certainly much
pf what Sterling hoped to accomplish at Stanford was pre-
dicated on the establishment of appropriate mechanisms of
coordination in order to carry out expanded policy objectives; further, the magnitude of these objectives and the
immediate past history of the University necessitated
strong leadership, thereby mandating sustained attention
to the matter of fostering an effective administrative style. It
was to these broad internal management tasks that Sterling
devoted much of his energy in the early years of his presidendy.
The structure of administration and governance at the
time Sterling arrived at Stanford was relatively simple. As
was indicated above, the discontinuance of separate reporting lines to the Board of Trustees and several other reforms
undertaken during Tresidder's presidency tended to
streamline administration and enhance the potential for
presidential leadership. At the same time, a strong departmental tradition at Stanford provided an appropriate counterbalance to central authority and assured a sufficiently
firm faculty base for effective academic governance.
In terms of formal structures of governance at Stanford,
much of the workload and responsibility was carried by
three policy bodies. Broad University policy was set by a
self-perpetuating Board of Trustees of 15 members. Relatively small and essentially traditional in outlook and
range of activities, the Board as it was constituted at the
time of Sterling's arrival represented in many respects a
"caretaker" body, yet reflected the potential for increased
vitality; as will be seen below, this potential was tapped
rather early in Sterling's presidency.
The primary structure for faculty participation in the
governance of Stanford was the Academic Council (consisting of full professors, associate professors, and assistant
professors), numbering some 300 members at the beginning
of Sterling'sltenure. Required to meet at least three times
each academic year, this body was charged with broad
responsibility for the internal administration of the University. As the full Council was a large and somewhat
cumbersome organization, many routine policy matters
were handled by the Council's executive committee; even
so, relatively little policy initiative was exercised by the
committee, with the result that the Council essentially
served as more of a validating agency than anything else.
The Advisory Board, a unique Stanford institution established in 1904, represented the third formal policy body in
the University's governance structure; owing at least in part
to its size and composition, this group exerted considerable
influence in the conduct of academic affairs. Consisting of
seven tenured full professors elected by the Academic
Council, the Advisory Board advised the President on matters referred to it by him and also to initiate recommendations (other than on appointments, promotions, and dismissals). Matters involving appointments, promotions,
and dismissals, as well as those concerning academic organization required, by tradition, this Board's approval; the
Trustees were to be apprised of any policy differences
between the President and Advisory Board.
The quality of faculty representation on the Advisory
Board assured its reliability and value as an important
policy gauge for Sterling, which he utilized quite effectively. While there is evidence that members of the Board had
not been entirely satisfied with their role in the period
preceding Sterling's arrival,'' he rectified this situation
quickly and sought assistance often:
I have found this Board a very useful instrument. In my years
here, I have turned to it again and again for counsel and assistance, and it has responded wisely and constructively. If I were
to lose its confidence, this fact would quickly be known to the
faculty and my effectiveness would be diminished.''
Thus, the stature and influence of the Advisory Board's
membership, in conjunction with its manageable size and
Sterling's willingness to consult frequently, rendered this
body an important element in consensus-building at Stanford.
Sterling also turned to other formal groups -such as the
Dean's Council, with whom he met biweekly on a scheduled basis - for information-sharing and policy articulation purposes. Much more illustrative of Sterling's style,
however, was his initiation of informal monthly meetings
with the deans of the schools as an additional device for the
exchange of ideas. Sterling consulted in this fashion extensively, revealing his ability to function equally well in both
formal and informal settings.
Given the relatively relaxed pace at Stanford and Sterling's direct yet informal approach to administration, the
conduct of University affairs during the early years of his
presidency was not a particularly complex matter. Moreover, Stanford's goals as articulated by Sterling and his
closest associates - namely, the upgrading of faculty and
students and the expansion of institutional resources as
prerequisites for establishing a much more comprehensive
University national in scope - were relatively clear and
generally well-received, if also highly ambitious. President
Sterling's distinctly personal style of administration produced remarkable results under these conditions; it was not
until later, as University goals were beginning to be substantially realized, that modifications in the structure of
administration and governance were made to accommodate Stanford's increasing complexity.
In the meantime, movement toward an expanded institu-
tional mission clearly entailed an effort to broaden the base
of Stanford's resources, both financial and organizational.
Perceiving this need early in his presidency, Sterling concentrated on visiting Stanford Alumni Conferences (eight
per year) held throughout the West; his first-hand impressions of alumni pride in Stanford convinced him of their
importance as a source of University support, as
terms of human resources as financial. Determinine" that he
could not embark on a campaign for extended alumni support alone, Sterling requested and received the concurrence of the Board of Trustees in this matter,13thus drawing
the Board into closer contact with the broad thrust of the
In promoting more active Board participation in Stanford's development, Sterling was fortunate in receiving
very able assistance through the vigorous Trustee leadership of Lloyd W. Dinkelspiel. A San Francisco attorney
elected President of the Board in 1953, Dinkelspiel firmly
believed in the duty of philanthropy; he was re-elected as
resident for five consecutive years (the maximum
allowed) and devoted perhaps 40 percent of his time to
Board and leadership activities during this period.I4 The
teamwork exhibited by Sterling and Dinkelspiel In pursuit
of common goals produced not only tangible outcomes for
the University, but also served to vitalize the somewhat
conventional President / Board relationship that had existed throughout most of Stanford's history.
Relatediy, Sterling's effort to enlarge Board membership
was based on the contention that the historical level of 15
Sterling looks out on the vast expanse of the Inner Quad
courtyard. Photo by Moulin Studios, San Francisco
was not sufficient to handle the broader range of tasks
imposed by an expanded mission and that greater geographic representation was needed. Accordingly, a courtapproved amendment to the Founding Grant was instituted
in 1954, raising Board membership to 23 (20 selected by the
Board for 10-year terms; three nominated by alumni for
five-year terms).15 This accomplished, Sterling expected
and received Trustee assistance in addressing" the essentially new problems created by such University objectives as
expanded fund-raising, the land development program,
and the anticipated move of the Medical School from San
Francisco to Stanford.
If one of Sterling's foremost talents was his a
assess opportunities and to establish institutional goals
accordingly, certainly another was the industry and expertise he demonstrated in pursuing these goals through a
variety of channels, formal and informal, both within Stanford and in the national arena of higher education. In his
efforts to broaden the base of University s
dent took great care in achieving consensu
tial institutional groups and individuals, y
so with relative dispatch. Almost single-handedly at first,
for example, he mobilized alumni groups and fund-raisin
groups such as the Stanford Associates to contri
effort. and saw to it that "the case for Staaxford" received
proper publicity,
Central to this entire effort or campaign was Sterling's
utilization of the talents of such individuals as
and Frederick E. Terman and a host of other Sta
cates in reshaping the University. Too,
outside Stanford, such as those gained
bership on the Commission on Financing Higher Edu
and through active participation in the Association
American Universities, contributed in some measure to t
dynamics at work at Stanford in the '50s and '6Qs.
The ascendancy of Sterling to the presidency of Stanfor
afforded him the opportunity to address contemporar
issues in higher education, issues both local and national in
scope, with considerable authority. His lifelong associatio
with higher education, wide intellectual interests, an
strong commitment to rather well-defined personal and
institutional values further enhanced Sterling's role as an
educational spokesman through the years of his stewardship. The characteristic forthright fashion in which
Stanford's President approached educational issues and
problems allows for a reliable construction of what is usually termed a "philosophy" of education, the substance cf
which was largely reflected in the University's development during the '50s and '60s.
In Sterling's view, the articulation of Stanford's institutional mission and the provision of intellectual leadership
were primary presidental functions.16 Yet the nature of
Sterling's intellect and personality, and therefore of his
style as President, revealed scant emphasis on conscious
philosophizing. Ever cognizant of the power of the writteq
word, and himself no novice in the art of eloquent persua-
sion, Sterling nonetheless rather consistently referred to
tangible goals and accomplishments in advancing the case
for Stanford. Sterling's tendency to express his ideas in
concrete, rather than in purely abstract, terms was in itself
an integral element of his general approach to education;
asked about this approach in the early '60s, he responded
with the somewhat unorthodox comment that
My philosophy. . . is not to develop a philosopy of education,
but instead to try to find the best possible faculty; then to
upgrade the breadth and variety of students, and provide
needed physical plant; and then sit back and see what results.17
While these remarks were obviously not intended as a
comprehensive statement of philosophy, they do reflect
rather accurately Sterling's attention to means as well as
ends. This fortunate wedding of the pragmatic and the ideal
in the thinking of the President provided the impetus for
much of Stanford's dynamism during his 19-year tenure.
Sterling arrived at Stanford in 1949 well equipped to
articulate his views on the state of higher education. By
training and inclination an historian, with a continuing
interest in international affairs and first-hand experience as
a news analyst, his perspective tended to be global. Too, his
thinking was buttressed by the contextual realities of the
period; in a world recently emerged from war, the role of
education in a democratic society was a vital contemporary
concern. This issue, with its implicit emphasis on the importance of the individual in a pluralistic, free society
struck a particularly responsive chord in Sterling's conceptualization of education, and provided him with a powerful
theme upon which he elaborated often. For Sterling, the
theme of higher education's function with respect to the
individual and to society at large suggested consideration
of the ethical, in addition to the solely instrumental, values
of education; his inaugural address concluded on just this
Our eductional gains in the last half century have been conspicuously identified with material progress. For these gains I
have nothing but the highest praise, but they supply us with
only one part of the equipment we need today. Education has
enabled man to take the measure of many things. Its preeminent task today is to enable him to take his own measure -his
own moral measure, and the moral measure of the society of
which he is a part.lB
If Sterling recognized, and indeed welcomed, higher
education's part in technological advances and their benefit to society, he also frequently expressed concern regarding the consequences of excessive emphasis on the technical outcomes of education:
If we learn to set too much store in the material benefits of our
high standard of living, at the expense of setting too little store
in things of the intellect and spirit, we shall have made a choice
which will undermine the very prosperity we seek to sustain
and enhance.''
Always a resolute defender of "things of the intellect and
spirit," Sterling consistently invoked the power of individualism in his advocacy of educational excellence,
which in turn he considered essential to a strong republic:
Progress in a free society calls for the best brains and leadership that can be developed; it calls, also, for men lean and
strong; not for men become soft and flabby by easy enjoyment
of creature comforts but for men toughened by carrying a full
pack of individual independence and responsibility.
It is for a set of values that will make possible the education of
such men that I plead, to the end that the real essence of
democracy be preserved.'O
Thus, while Sterling often addressed broad issues concerning the proper role of education in society, he did so almost
exclusively in terms of individual development. Speaking
of the pursuit of excellence within his own institution, for
example, he remarked that
If any of us is concerned to improve the quality of Stanford, he
can give meaning and action to that concern by improving
himself and his own performance. The quality of a university
cannot exceed the quality of its members.'l
This deep and abiding faith in the individual permeated
Sterling's approach to education and the presidency, and
provided him the means by which he charted his course: "It
is this star which shines on the individual at the center of
things which affords me, at least, a light to steer by."22
For Sterling, virtually all institutional values and accomplishments flowed from the interaction and synthesis of
individual values and achievement. He also perceived,
however, that this flow was by no means uni-directional;
educational institutions had importarit, indeed critical,
functions to perform in the process of realizing maximum
potential. As the President of Stanford, Sterling attempted
to delineate these institutional functions, and in so doing
helped to establish both an educational posture and a program of action for his institution. Given Sterling's views
regarding the centrality of the individual in the educational
process, it was appropriate that he should identify the
setting and maintaining of rigorous yet flexible standards as
a primary task of educators and institutions of learning:
The central purpose of education is to develop to the optimum the talents of each succeeding generation. This cannot be
done without confronting students with high standards, both
moral and intellectual. It cannot be done effectively by lockstep
programs; it requires recognition of differentials in talent, vigor
and in~entive.'~
Sterling recognized that there existed no specific formula
for the development of talent, yet he firmly believed in the
obligation to challenge the capacities of students to the
fullest possible extent.
Sterling's views as to the nature and mission of education
represented, on the one hand, a particularly relevant contribution to the widespread discussion of educational
issues in postwar America; the form of Sterling's approach
- education considered as a primary asset of society reflected the contemporary concern with this subject. On
the other hand, the substance of his views was by no means
universally subscribed to; at a time when many were calling for greatly expanded access to higher e d u c a t i ~ n , ~ ~
Sterling seemed to be advocating a policy of restriction. To
a degree, Sterling acknowledged the differences between
his stance and that more generally espoused, but he did not
judge his views to be inconsistent with the concept of equal
educational opportunity. Nonetheless, he often felt compelled to address this issue:
No society can strongly advance without strong leadership,
perhaps least of all a free society, because freedom calls for the
expenditure of time and energy in the tugging and hauling of
public debate.
How then, in a free society, is this leadership to be identified
and developed? Certainly not by failing, in education, for inst-
ance, to have a student work to his capacity; and certainly not
by seeking a common denominator, for the common as well as
for the uncommon man. But, rather, by testing capacity, aptitude and incentive.
To advance this view is not to argue for the education of an
elite, a word, incidentally, of foreign origin which has discriminatory and therefore malodorous overtones.
I would reason, rather, that this view argues for keeping the
doors of educational opportunity wide open so that the possibility of identifying and developing talent - and I mean a
variety of talent - can be enlarged."
Sterling saw nothing undemocratic in the viewpoint he
expressed, then, but rather believed that the use of the term
"equality" had become a source of some confusion:
Any of us will go to battle for the principle of equality before
the law. Any of us will go to battle for equal opportunity. But it
is not ordained that because there is equal opportunity, or
should be, and because there is equality before the law, there is
any such thing as equality of talent. There is no such thing.
Each of us is differently endowed and we should be measured
individually in terms of how we make use of our selective
individual endowment^.'^
For his part, Sterling felt that much of contemporary educational thinking had become muddled as a result of a faulty
understanding of equality and equal opportunity.
Having identified this problem early in his presidency,
Sterling set the tone of his approach to education by pointing to responsibilities as yet unfulfilled. In his inaugural
address, he declared that
I should hope that every young person in this country would
have the opportunity to go as far in education as his talent can
carry him. And I should urge that it is society's responsibility to
provide such opportunity and to provide it without any coercion to fit a pattern. But also I should hope that talent, and the
industry which fortifies it, would be sternly tested at critical
points along the way, more sternly perhaps than it now is, so
that the opportunity which society provides will be appreciated by those who stand to benefit from it.
. . . We need stern testing at several rungs of the educational
ladder so we may learn where our potential for advanced work
and leadership :esides. 1t.i~with this potential that college and
university e h c a t i o n should be particularly con~erned.~'
As Americzn higher education emerged from the strains of
the post.,car years, Sterling prescribed the imposition of
rigoro=ts standards to achieve the educational excellence
he P J consistently advocated; any lesser effort would, in his
ejes, amount to an abdication of responsibility.
The thrust of Sterling's views was quite clearly at odds
with the much more expansive approach to education
taken by the 1947 President's Commission; much of
Sterling's external activities during the early years of his
presidency were therefore directed toward advocating an
alternative vision as to the proper course of higher education. On the national level, Sterling's membership on the
Commission on Financing Higher Education (1949-1952)
afforded him the opportunity to analyze the contemporary
state of higher education in a sufficiently broad context and
also served to legitimize his position on a number of specific issues. The Commission's posture of opposing any expansion of federal support and advocating instead increased attention to potential business, foundation, and
alumni sources of support, for example, was precisely that
of Stanford's President. On more local horizons, Sterling's
numerous speaking engagements provided him many
opportunities to criticize the approach of the President's
Commission, opportunities of which he took full advan-
tage. In a 1951 speech before the 19th annual Alumni Conference in Los Angeles, for example, he declared that "higher education today faces the danger of watering down intellectual performance - through a lowering of standards by responding to demands that it embrace every American
boy and girl." The headline over a newspaper account of
this speech read, somewhat dramatically, "Dr. Sterling
Flavs 'Watered' E d u ~ a t i o n . " ~ ~
Bkyond what he considered to be a seriously misguided
overall approach to the development of higher education
taken by the President's Commission, Sterling was particularly concerned with the ramifications of vastly increased
federal aid called for in the Commission's report. In this
regard, Sterling felt strongly that private institutions could
and should play a primary role in safeguarding the integrity
of the academic enterprise. Speaking on the role of privately supported colleges and universities in 1950, Sterling
observed that
. . . there is no greater institutional guarantor of the freedom
and advancement of education. So long as they remain strong
. . . they will offer protection against dangers of educational
control that may lurk in what appears to be the necessary
amplification of public funds for education of greater
While Sterling was not categorically opposed to federal aid
to higher education, neither was he completely comfortable with the concept and always considered federal support a potentially dangerous policy. Strong private institutions, be believed, could help maintain the educational
independence and self-determination of all higher education. Speaking on this subject 17 years later with specific
reference to the dismissal of the President of the University
of California, Sterling reminded his audience that "the
financial dependence of universities upon public funding
invariably raised the specter of possible political influence
- a specter which has recently appeared on local
horizons. "30
Besides the important "watchdog" role attributed to private higher education with regard to federal influence, and
in addition to the traditional argument for the preservation
of diversity, Sterling felt that private institutions had an
obligation to set an example for all of higher education:
. . . I recognize, at least at the college and university level,
that one of the strengths of our educational system has been its
diversity, or, if you please, the combination of the publicly and
privately supported education. There is an essential unity in all
education that I would resolutely defend, and I shudder at the
prospect of having the advocates of independent education act
or talk in a way that would jeopardize this unity. I think privately supported and publicly supported education should be
complementary. I should expect the independently supported
institution to have more opportunity to set the pace and set
good standards. This should be its role, in my view, and if this
role is well played, I'm sure its influence on publicly supported
institutions will be beneficial and c o n s t r ~ c t i v e . ~ ~
As it turned out, Stanford University and its unique institutional setting provided Sterling with ample opportunities
to validate the substance of his educational thinking. Indeed, the nature of these opportunities and Sterling's role
in responding to them lay at the heart of Stanford's transformation during his presidency.
Sterling's conception of the mission of the modern American university was fashioned primarily from his own welldefined educational values and from his assessment of the
state of higher eucation in the early postwar period. If he
viewed institutions of higher education, quite appropriately, as a natural vehicle for the advancement of learning, he
also considered colleges and universities unique institutions interesting in themselves. Sterling realized that, unlike most institutions, universities were expected both to
reflect and to challenge societal values:
Herein lies the paradox of the university - a n engine generating change and a conservatory of the best that has been
produced by that engine. Universities are, like Tennyson's
Ulysses, a part of all that they have met. They cannot extricate
themselves from the society to which they belong3'
Sterling did not expect that the university could or should
function apart from society, but neither did he hold that it
should therefore necessarily play a passive role. Rather, he
stressed the need for institutional independence (and responsibility) in the articulation of an educational mission:
If the university is to stand for values which tend to get
"pushed aside i n the rough-and-tumble of everyday living,"
then it must exact from itself and from its members a n extraordinary degree of integrity and judgment. . . .
A university will, indeed, be influenced by society's expectations and demands, but it should not permit itself to be shaped
by these influences alone; rather it should shape itself by its
o w n choice of values and
This somewhat anthropomorphic conception of the university squared precisely with Sterling's ideas as to the
attributes necessary for individual success and development - independence, determination, and a sense of purpose informed by a clear set of values. Sterling expected no
less of institutions than he did of individuals; indeed, in his
thinking, the two were inextricably bound.
Given the straightforward simplicity of Sterling's educational views, it is not surprising that he expressed little
interest in propounding an elaborate "philosophy" of
education. While the sum of his statements on various
aspects of higher education in point of fact constituted a
cohesive educational. approach or philosophy, Sterling
considered such statements merely as a prologue to action.
As a spokesman for higher education, Sterling could be
content with forcefully expressing his views; as the President of Stanford University, he was also vitally concerned
with outcomes. It was just this focus on tangible achievements that characterized Sterling's presidency.
The basic thrust of Sterling's educational approach revealed a deep and thoroughgoing commitment to quality in
higher education. Recognizing that rhetoric alone could
contribute little toward the achievement of this goal, Sterling directed his efforts toward the accomplishment of concrete objectives such as the recruitment of quality faculty
and the attraction of talented students to Stanford. Accomplishing these objectives, in turn, required a significant
expansion of resources, and to this goal Sterling also devoted considerable energy.
Sterling foresaw great promise for Stanford when he
assumed the presidency in 1949, and he arrived with several concrete notions as to how the promise he envisioned
might be fulfilled. The degree to which Stanford achieved
this institutional potential was based at least as much on
the validity of these concrete notions as on the substance of
Sterling's philosophy of education, and it is on this basis in
the final andysis that the efficacy of Sterling's presidency
must be judged.
1. Source material derived from "Biographical Data Sheet: President
Wallace Sterling" (Stanford University, 1949) and personal interview
with J.E. Wallace Sterling (May 7, 1975).
2. Cited in The Stanford Observer (April 1967), p. 1.
3. Interview with J.E. Wallace Sterling (May 7, 1975).
4. See, for example, Edith R. Mirrielees, Stanford: The Story of a
University (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1959), p. 320.
5. Frederic 0. Glover (Assistant to the President, Stanford University)
to Harold W. Dodds (October 21, 1960), J.E. Wallace Sterling Papers,
Stanford University Archives.
6. Ibid,
7. J.E. Wallace Sterling, "Memorandum to the Board of Trustees of
Stanford University" (November 17, 1948), pp. 2-3, Sterling Papers,
Stanford University Archives.
8. Ibid, p. 2.
9. Ibid.
10. Lewis B. Mayhew, "Administration and Governance at Stanford
University" (unpublished manuscript, Stanford Univ., 1975), p. 8.
11. See Marion R. Kirkwood (Chairman of the Advisory Board) to J.E.
Wallace Sterling (June 21, 1949), Sterling Papers, Stanford University
12. J.E. Wallace Sterling to Herbert C. Hoover (February 6, 1958),
Sterling Papers, Stanford University Archives.
13. Interview with J.E. Wallace Sterling (May 7, 1975).
14. Ibid.
15. Stanford University News Release (June 7, 1954),Sterling Papers,
Stanford University Archives.
16. J.E. Wallace Sterling, "Memorandum Submitted to the Board of
Trustees of Stanford University" (November 17, 1948), pp. 1-2,
Sterling Papers, Stanford University Archives.
17. Cited in "Notes on Meeting of the President's Student Advisory
Committee" (October 31, 1963), Sterling Papers, Stanford University
18. Inaugural Address of J.E. Wallace Sterling, "A Lofty Purpose
Shared" (Stanford University News, October 7, 1949), p. 15, Sterling
Papers, Stanford University Archives.
19. Cited in The Stanford Observer (June 1968).
20. Ibid.
21. Address to Stanford Today and Tomorrow Convocation (n.d.).
Cited in The Stanford Observer (June 1968).
22. Address to Trustees' Dinner, 1962. Cited in The Stanford Observer
(June 1968).
23. The Santa Cruz Sentinel (1960). Cited in The Stanford Observer
(June 1968).
24. See President's Commission on Higher Education, Higher Education for American Democracy, 6 vols. (Washington, D.C.:U.S. Government Printing Office, 1947.)
25. Address to Pasadena Rotary Club (n.d.). Cited in The Stanford
Observer (June 1968).
26. Unedited transcription of 1958 Denver-Salt Lake City Alumni
Conference Speech (Stanford University News and Publications, July
9, 1958), p. 8, Sterling Papers, Stanford University Archives.
27. Inaugural Address of J.E. Wallace Sterling, op. cit., pp. 12-13.
28. The Los Angeles Times (March 12, 1951).
29. Address to Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. Cited in The Los
Angeles Times (January 26, 1960).
30. Address to Stanford Today and Tomorrow Convocation (January
24, 1967). Cited in The Palo Alto Times (January 25, 1967).
31. Letter to FrederickC. Whitman (1958),cited in memorandum from
Frederic 0. Glover to Peter C. Allen (April 3, 1958), Sterling Papers,
Stanford University Archives.
32. Address to Pacific Union Club, San Francisco (1961),cited in The
Stanford Observer (June 1968).
33. Address to Stanford Today and Tomorrow Convocation (1966),
cited in The Stanford Observer (June 1968).
President and Mrs.
Sterling relax in their
new home, the Lou
Henry Hoover House.
Photo by Moulin
Studios, San Francisco
Ann and Waliy Sterling
with Stanford trustees
Morris M. Doyle (upper
left) and Judge Homer
Spence at the 1959
dinner in San
Francisco honoring
Sterling's 10th
anniversary as
Sterlings, and Don and
Jeanne Kennedy
At work, a pensive president and, at home, a relaxed gardener on his tractor
John Ewart Wallace Sterling, who served as Stanford's
fifth president, died at 11:30 p.m. Monday, July 1, at his
home in Woodside, Calif. He was 78.
He had been in declining health for several months.
Highly respected by students, faculty, and staff alike,
Sterling, a historian, was named University chancellor for
iife after taking early retirement in 1968.
Memorial services were held at 11a.m. Tuesday, July 9,
at Stanford Memorial Church.
He is survived by his wife. Ann, of Woodside; daughters,
Susan Monjauze of Paris and Judy
asadena; son,
William, of San Francisco; and si
During Sterling's presidency, Stanford rose from 15th to
3rd nationally in the number of highly ranked graduate
programs, a feat unmatched by any other major private
educational institution.
Sterling played a central role in two fund-raising drives
that set national records, the $100 million PACE program
(1962-64) and the $300 million Campaign for Stanford
In his 19-year presidency, the University's total operating expenditures rose from $10 million annually to $108
million. The faculty increased by 170 percent, to 938. Student enrollment rose about 40 percent, mainly at the graduate level, to 11,557,
Landmarks of the Sterling presidency included the Stanford Medical School's move from San Francisco to campus,
construction of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center
(SLAC), establishment of overseas studies centers in five
European countries, and development of the Stanford Inustrial Park and Stanford Shopping Center.
He changed the face of Stanford with an ambitious building program. By 1970, approximately 75 percent of the
University's physical plant had been built or planned during Sterling's presidency, including the Medical Center,
SLAC, and a major program to renovate the original Quad
During Sterling's term as president, gifts and bequests to
Stanford totaled nearly $330 million, compared to $31 million raised from 1907 until 1948.
As Stanford made progress in the 1 9 5 0 increasing
attention was paid to the quality of its incoming students. Competition for admission to Stanford intensified, and Sterling
asked that attention be paid not only to academic qualifictions but to candidates who could contribute a particular
excellence, such as in music, journalism, sports, or drama.
Sterling encouraged and supported efforts of the Admissions Office to actively recruit qualified minority students
in the early 1960s. By 1966, the proportion of minority
students in the freshman class was well ahead of the national average for major institutions.
Sterling also initiated changes in the Stanford curriculum, which had remained virtually static for a quarter of a
century. He felt strongly that Americans should become
proficient in at least one foreign language, and believed that
the growth of science and technology required students to
have a grounding in these fields.
In what Time magazine called a "go!d-rush" of faculty
appointments, Stanford captured, among many others,
historian David Potter and mathematician Edward Begle
after both had spent 19 years at Yale; renowned German
historian Gordon Craig after 20 years at Princeton; and
novelist-critic Albert Guerard after 23 years at Harvard.
In his final years as president, Sterling presided over a
University which had grown much larger and more complex. Stanford's spectacular financial growth was accompanied by increasingly close links with federal agencies
and an increasing heterogeneity in faculty and student
The growing restlessness of students and faculty in the
1960s exploded at Stanford in the spring of Sterling's last
continued on page 21
Stanford's three chancellors: (at left) Chancellor David Starr
the University's first president, poses with Ray Lyman Wilbur
(wearing top hat) on Wilbur's inauguration day in Janaury 1916.
Wilbur declined to wear an academic gown to his inauguration as
Stanford's third president (see story below). Years later Wilbur, then
chancellor fat right in photo above), talks with J.E.Wallace Sterling,
Stanford's fifth president. The date of this photo is not known, but
Sterling became president on April 1, 1949, and Wilbur died about
12 weeks later on June 26
terling only third chancellor in 94 years
J.E. Wallace Sterling was only the third person to
serve as chancellor of Stanford University during its
first 94 years.
The University's first and third presidents, David
Starr Jordan and Ray Lyman Wilbur, each held the
honorary and advisory position.
Jordan, an ichthyologist, was the 40-year-old president of Indiana University when Senator and Mrs.
Stanford offered him the Stanford presidency on
March 22, 1891, just seven months before their university opened. Jordan accepted immediately.
He guided Stanford through such crises as the 1906
earthquake and the financial setback that followed the
death of Senator Stanford in 1893. He also recruited a
young, dynamic faculty and provided the
philosophical and organizational foundation for the
institution in its early years.
Outside the University, he became a leading advocate for world peace.
After 22 years as president, Jordan was named chancellor on May 23, 1913. He died Sept. 19,1931, having
lived out his life in Serra House on campus.
Wilbur, a physician and Stanford alumnus, became
dean of the University's School of Medicine in 1913,
the same year Jordan was named chancellor.
Despite pressure from the president of the Board of
Trustees, Wilbur declined to wear an academic gown
to his January 1916, inauguration as Stanford president, saying later: "I knew that if I let this president of
the Board decide this question for me he would try to
decide other more important questions. . . ."
Under Wilbur, the University began charging tuition
in 1920 ($120 per year), and modest fundraising among
alumni was initiated. Wilbur organized academic departments into the schools we have today and strongly
encouraged development of the professional schools.
Wilbur took a leave of absence from Stanford to serve
as secretary of the interior under U.S. President Herbert
Hoover. The two met as undergraduates when they
both lived in Encina Hall.
On Jan. 1, 1942, Wilbur became chancellor after 27
years as president. He died June 26, 1949, about nine
weeks after Sterling became Stanford's fifth president.
After becoming chancellor on Sept. 1,1968, Sterling
remained active in Stanford affairs, serving as national
co-chairman of the successful $300 million Campaign
for Stanford. He also chaired the American Revolution
Bicentennial Commission and became an officer of
Filoli Center in Woodside.
Stanford presidents:
David Starr Jordan
John Casper Branner
Ray Lyman Wilbur
Donald B. Tresidder
J.E. Wallace Sterling
Kenneth S. Pitzer
Richard W. Lyman
Donald Kennedy
by Bob Beyers
Wallace Sterling once defined the job of a university
president as taking all the blame and sharing all the credit.
Stanford's fifth president remained true to this personal
conviction to the very end.
Continuing a long battle against cancer, Sterling last
November realized that memorial services might be held,
not by his preference but because of his "long official connection with Stanford," as he put it.
In a letter, he asked his son, William, to convey "my
thanks to all who worked with me and contributed so much
to Stanford's welfare" when the time came.
William did so to an audience of more than 1,000 at
Stanford Memorial Church Tuesday, July 9. Sterling,
named chancellor of the University for life on his retirement in 1968, died at his home in Woodside July 1.
Hundreds of those attending the memorial service were
people who came to Stanford during the Sterling era, which
began in 1949.
Morris Doyle, who served as president of the Stanford
Board of Trustees during 1962-64, said: "It is impossible to
overstate Wally's contribution to the stature of Stanford.
"He became president with the advent of the electronic
revolution; and with Fred Terman built swiftly on Stanford's established strength in engineering.
"But being a humanist, his dedication was to the whole
cause, and in rapid succession department after department and school after school gained strength and prominence. . . .With grace and style, he set the hard mark of
quality upon this University."
University President Donald Kennedy said Sterling
"understood that leadership requires the radiation of belief, of confidence, and of good cheer. . . .
"There were struggles, but he made them contests of
principles and not of people. . . .There were discourage-
ments; he came through each one smiling and never looked
for a d a c e to ~ u blame.
" ~ A e r eweie discomforts, and he danced gallantly
around them, refusing to let them dampen an occasion for
The loyalty and devotion Sterling and his wife, Ann,
showed for each other in 55 years of marriage were inspiring examples "for the Stanford family that became their
own," Kennedy added.
"There is scarcely a single aspect of Stanford's contemporary quality as a university that does not trace to Wally
Sterling's creative and devoted management of its great
postwar transformation.
"His success was based on simple strengths. He was able
to collect and motivate talented colleagues, and then give
them room to work. He had strong principles and said
firmly what they were. He had the stomach for daring
decisions, and they generally paid off.
"Most of all. he came somehow into a close and abidine
resonance with the aspirations and qualities of Stanford, s i
that one scarcely knew which were the institution's and
which were the man's.
"He came to epitomize our sense of spirited growth and,
at the same time, our concern for students and Stanford's
humane qualities.
"By reflecting our own values and ambitions back to us,
he reminded us constantly of where we were headed and
how far we could go."
William Sterling noted that "giving thanks, expressing
appreciation, paying homage to others, all with magnanimity and good humor, were activities which permeated my
father's life."
Clad in his old khaki work clothes, President Sterling
enjoyed gardening, his son recalled. One afternoon, while
he was watering shrubbery in front of the Lou Henry Hoover House - the president's residence at Stanford - a car-
of curious tourists asked him: "Is this the Hoover
"Yes, it is," Sterling replied.
"Do you work here?" they continued.
"Yes, I do," Sterling said.
"Who lives here now?" they asked.
"The president of Stanford University and his family,"
he replied.
"Is the president inside right now?" they inquired.
"'No, he is not," was the accurate reply.
''Do you think we could have a peek inside the house?"
they asked.
ing proceeded to give them a short tour. "They
d him as they left, and he thanked them ever after by
how delighted he was to have been accepted for
appeared to be and for what, in fact, he truly was, a
friendly gardener," his son recalled.
"'This University, in a sense, was a larger garden and he
ever pleased and grateful for the privilege he felt in
g permitted to tend it for a while."
ne Very Rev. C. Julian Bartlett, dean emeritus of Grace
Cathedral and archdeacon of San Francisco, and the Rev.
merton-Kelly, dean of the chapel at Stanford,
at the service. Prof. Herbert Nanney, music,
ling's favorite hymns and the "Stanford Hymn"
on the Fisk organ. The "Lord's Prayer" was sung by Prof.
William Ramsey, music.
Scriptural readings were given by Peter S. Bing, student
body president in 1954-55 and president of the Board of
Trustees in 1976-81, and by Robert Minge Brown, student
body president in 1931-32 and president of the trustees
during 1971-76.
Robert A. Laurie of the Stuart Highlanders played Amazing Grace on the bagpipe as the family and audience filed
f the church to a reception and lunch on the Inner
Two large mixed bouquets of flowers were set in the front
center of the chancel. Floral wreaths in the vestibule came
from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the
University of California.
Continuing his devotion to the man he served for many
years, Fred Glover, executive assistant to Sterling during
Piper Robert A. Laurie plays Amazing Grace following the
memorial service
his presidency, served as the key organizer of Chancellor
Sterling's memorial service.
Working with Glover were Marlene Wine, President's
Office; Lyle Nelson, Thomas More Storke professor of communication; Daryl Pearson, Office of Development; and
Don Carlson, Office of Public Affairs.
Eight men who had worked closely with Sterling served
as ushers: Rixford Snyder, associate professor emeritus of
history and director of admissions emeritus; Harold Bacon,
professor emeritus of mathematics; Donald Winbigler, professor emeritus of speech and drama and of education and
academic secretary emeritus; George Knoles, Margaret
Byrne professor of American history emeritus; Wayne
Vucinich, Robert and Florence McDonnell professor of East
European history emeritus; Harvey Hall, registrar emeritus;
Alf Brandin, former vice president for business affairs; and
Douglas Walker, dean of admissions, Menlo College.
Eric Hutchinson, professor emeritus of chemistry an
academic secretary emeritus, served as verger, the person
who led the procession of participants to their seats in the
conveys his father's thanks to Stanfor
This is the text of Will'
memorial service for
Ilace Sterling'sremarks at the July9
er, Chancellor J.E.Wallace Sterling
In a letter Dad wrote at Thanksgiving time last year, he
foresaw that a memorial service such as this might occur, not
out of any preference of his own but, as he said, because of his
"long official c~nnectionwith Stanford."
place, he said he had "modest
And if the service did t
requests," which we are hifilling today. He requested that we
sing the Old Dutch Hymn of Thanksgiving, which was sung
every Freshman Sunday during his time of office as president;
ertain expression of thanks be made,
in a moment.
sing appreciation, paying homage to
others, all with magnanimity and good humor, were activities
which permeated my father's life.
The goodwill and curiosity Dad felt for other people reflected a conviction that the world is fundamentally a friendly
and generous place. His own experience taught him that effort
could lead to accomplishment and t at the consequence of
applying and giving of himself was a wider field for opportunity of service.
He applied himself unswervingly and gave and received
enjoyment amidst an array of friendships which multiplied as
his span of life increased. He knew in particular, as we have
just heard in the passage from Ecclesiastes, that when a man
has "the ability. . .to find contentment in his work, this is a gift
from God."
Dad would describe his growing up, his education, and the
stages of his subsequent career in terms of the encouragement,
sustenance, and direction he re
from others along the
way. During my lifetime my mot
been foremost among,
and certainly the most deserving of, all those he credited with
his praise and gratitude.
The circle of his benefactors, as he esteemed them, included
teachers, friends, coaches, colleagues - a legion of associates
from whose contributions he deemed his own inseparable and
to whose contributions he regularly ranked his own as sube we might judge otherwise, the essential thing is to
the attitude of spirit at work in Dad's life: an attitude
ity and cordiality which reflects his own lively sense
of human conviviality and a recurrent preference for goodness.
Your presence here today testifies to how much you were
heartened by him,
f course, would have put that the other way around.
The feeling of thankfulness and interconnection which is SO
characteristic of Dad's response to life showed itself as much
in his playfulness as in his practice of praising others.
If we are truly interdependent after all, the attainment an
individual wins is understood to be an incident of the cooperation and support of many. Taking oneself lightly occurs almost
y reflex, and the capacity to laugh at oneself is an accessible
Every time I heard Dad give any sort of formal talk, and often
in his conversation, he told a story. Here is one about him
which seems a propos.
You know he loved to garden. When we resided on campus
at the Hoover House, he would often find a moment to relax
outside, tending flowers and lawn and shrubs. He would don
old khaki working clothes: a long-sleeved shirt, and pants
cinched up by a questionable and ancient belt,' a pair of disreputable but infinitely comfortable old shoes, and a tattered
straw hat.
On the particular afternoon in quest
shrubbery by the front door. He was stan
clad as described, when a car of curious
stopped beside him.
"Is this the Hoover House?" they asked.
"Yes, it is," he said.
"Do you work here?" they continued.
"Yes, I do," Dad said.
"Who lives here now?" they wanted to
""The president of Stanford University an
the response.
"Is the president inside right now?" they inquired.
"No, he is not," was the accurate reply.
"Do you think," they wondered, "we coul
inside the house?" And the result was that Dad showed them
through the front hall out onto the terrace which 100
garden and beyond to the campus. They were quite pleased. So
was he. They thanked him as they left, and he thanked them
ever after by relating how delighted he was to have been
accepted for what he appeared to be and for what, in fact, he
truly was, a friendly gardener.
This University, in a sense, was a larger garden, and he was
ever pleased and grateful for the privilege he felt in being
permitted to tend it for awhile.
What Dad asked in the letter he wrote me last November was,
and now I quote, "to have expressed my thanks to all who
worked with me and contributed so much to Stanford's welfare." So, thank you! Thank you from him.
Thank you from my mother and from my sisters and me for
your own generosity and compassion on the occasion of Dad's
dying. Thank you for encompassing him in your thoughts as he
wishes you to remember his gratitude and fondness for each of
Doyle: 'the man for
the time and the place'
This is the text of Morris M. Doyle's remarks at the July 9 memorial service for ChancellorJ.E.Wallace Sterling. Doyle was president of the Board of Trustees during 1962-64
Jane Lathrop Stanford regarded this church as the heart and
soul of the Leland Stanford Junior University. She was a very
religious woman, and in the years following her husband's
death when the University was beset by administrative and
financial problems, she had no doubt that divine guidance
would assure not only the survival but the ultimate greatness
of the fledgling institution named in honor of her only child.
Thus she would have thought it more than fortuitous that
Wally Sterling was placed in a position to lead it to that greatness. Perhaps so, but whether his selection was by divine
guidance or more mundane processes, he was the man for the
time and the place.
It is impossible to overstate Wally's contribution to the stature of Stanford. He became president with the advent of the
electronic revolution, and with Fred Terman built swiftly on
Stanford's established strength in engineering. But being a
humanist, his dedication was to the whole cause, and in rapid
succession department after department and school after
school gained strength and prominence. His immense reservoir of energy and enthusiasm carried the $300 million Campaign for Stanford to a resounding success, and academic
heads across the land turned toward Palo Alto. With grace and
style, he set the hard mark of quality upon this University.
For over 20 years as president, Wally held the unswerving
support of the faculty and the board of trustees. After he became chancellor he was elected to that board. His gentle
warmth and spiritual strength will never be forgotten by any of
us who were privileged to serve Stanford with him. Whether
presiding at commencement, tending his lovely garden, chatting with his friends and family, cutting wood for the winter
fireplace, or siring the Sons of Preachers Night in the Bohemian Grove, he was an expaordinary man.
Saying farewell varies from time to time and place to place to
people. Wally was fond of an ancient Irish toast which I think
reflects the depth of his personality and his feeling toward his
friends and colleagues:
May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
The sun shine warm upon your face,
The rain fall soft upon your fields,
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.
Kennedy praises Sterling's
leadership and devotion
This is the text of President Donald Kennedy's remarks at the July
9 memorial service for Chancellor I. E. Wallace Sterling
I begin by speaking for myself, saying to you some things I
wish I could have said to Wally at the end.
Humanity and decency are qualities we need to count on in
our friends; he never failed me in them, and I actually don't
believe that he ever failed anyone else in them, either.
He understood that leadership requires the radiation of belief, of confidence, and of good cheer; and thus he was a
leading academic practitioner of what Hubert Humphrey
called the "politics of joy."
To me he gave direct and unstinting encouragement, and
also approval. I sought the former energetically and rejoiced in
the latter unashamedly.
He also gave me a large number of plants, which always
seemed to fare conspicuously worse in my hands than they
had in his. (Laughter) I think he would understand and forgive
me for occasionally fibbing to him about how well they were
doing in the garden at Hoover House.
In Wally's life and work there were struggles, but he made
them contests of principles and not of people. When I said at
Commencement this June that although we surely will have
opponents, we need not make them enemies, I was brought to
it by the vision of Wally's grace in the management of conflict.
Later he gave all of us lessons about personal courage in the
face of pain and disappointment. Wally did not lead a charmed
life, although a case can be made that he qualified for one.
There were discouragements; he came through each one smiling, and never looked for a place to put blame. There were
discomforts, and he danced gallantly around them, refusing to
let them dampen an occasion for others.
In the end there was an implacable disease, and he fought
that without complaint and with great courage. After six weeks
of radiation therapy, having by then outlasted all of the medical predictions, he announced to me one day on the telephone
that he had experienced a setback - an injury sustained, he
reported, because he tripped carrying a sack of bone meal out
of the potting shed. He said this, I might add, with some
And finally, I would thank Ann, for being there for him and
for the rest of us as well. The loyalty and devotion they showed
during a marriage of 55 years - devotion for one another, for
their own family, and for the Stanford family that became their
own - were inspiring examples of what partnership means.
So much for my own account. I now want to speak on this
institution's behalf, venturing to represent the legatees of Wally's work as a builder and a leader.
There is scarcely a single aspect of Stanford's contemporary
quality as a university that does not trace to Wally Sterling's
creative and devoted management of its great postwar transformation.
His success was based on simple strengths. He was able to
collect and motivate talented colleagues, and then to give them
room to work. He had strong principles and said firmly what
they were. He had the stomach for daring decisions, and they
generally paid off.
Most of all, he came into a close and abiding resonance with
the aspirations and qualities of Stanford, so close that one
scarcely knew which were the institution's and which were
the man's.
He came to epitomize our sense of spirited growth and, at the
same time, our concern for students and for Stanford's humane
qualities. By reflecting our own values and ambitions back to
us, he reminded us constantly of where we were headed, and
how far we could go.
The last person to serve Wally as Provost was my predecessor, Dick Lyman. Only a serious family obligation in Maine
could have kept him from this service. On our joint behalf I
want to close with a paragraph he wrote of Wally:
"For Wally Sterling at Stanford it is impossible not to
think of Sir Christopher Wren's epitaph in the great
Catherdral of St. Paul's: Si monumentum requiris, circumspice -'If you seek his monument, look about you!'
He will need no other, he deserves no less."
Following are editorials about J.E. Wallace Sterling reprinted
from the Los Angeles Times and Sun lose Mercury News
J.E. Wallace Sterling moved large across the California
scene with the outsize form of a football player, the mind of
a scholar, the skills of an administrator and a genial gift of
prying vast sums of money from people who shared his
vision of higher education.
He left his mark in many ways at many places, plying his
trade as historian at Caltech, directing the Huntington Library and Art Gallery and then, for 39 remarkably fruitful
years, guiding the growth and development and enrichment of Stanford University as its president.
He died on Monday, a victim of cancer, at the age of 78, at
his home in Woodside, near the Stanford campus. And it
will be, appropriately, in the Stanford Memorial Church on
Tuesdav that his contributions will be remembered.
He presided over the flowering of the university from
1949 until 1968, a period of unprecedented achievements
measured both quantitatively and qualitatively. He anticipated educational needs with the recruitment of those who
would become national leaders in biochemistry, electrical
engineering, computer sciences. His attention to quality
attracted world-renowned professors. The graduate program, embracing almost half the student body, won
recognition as one of the three best in the nation.
His leadership was distinguished by more than ideas,
policies, and principles. He had extraordinary success in
raising money, leading two record-breaking academic
fund-raising drives so that the university could back its
commitment to academic excellence with extensive financial resources.
The greatness of the university stands as his memorial.
Los Angeles Times
July 5, 1985
Stanford University's "Uncommon Man," John Ewart
Wallace Sterling, is dead of cancer at age 78, mourned far
beyond the bounds of the campus he propelled to international prominence in 19 years as its president.
In 1949, when Sterling, historian, teacher, and radio
commentator, became Stanford's fifth president, the
school's reputation was regional, its physical plant run
down. The endowment was a scant $31 million, the Palo
Alto campus was valued at $22 million. The faculty was
underpaid, morale was equally low.
By the time Sterling retired in 1968, Stanford ranked
third among American universities for overall excellence;
the physical plant was valued at $145 million; and gifts and
bequests totaled nearly $330 million.
Today the Stanford faculty includes 10 Nobel laureates,
five Pulitzer Prize winners, 79 members of the National
Academy of Sciences, 127 members of the American
Academy of Arts and Sciences, 40 members of the National
Academy of Engineering, and 22 members of the American
Philosophical Society.
These are some of the reasons Stanford Associates
awarded Sterling the university's highest honor, the "Degree of Uncommon Man," in 1978.
How did he manage it? How did this son of a Canadian
clergyman, this 6-foot-2-inch, 215-pound one-time football
player, coach, and commentator work such a transformation?
Newsman Chet Huntley may have come close to the
answer when he said of Sterling:
"Intelligence and ability and good humor, suspended on
the chassis of an All-America tackle, carry a considerable
degree of authority."
To Richard W. Lyman, Stanford's president from 1970 to
1980, "the key to (Sterling's) phenomenal success at Stanford was his ability to bring together diverse elements in the
university and its outside constituencies, to appeal to old
supporters and new with equal effectiveness. . . ."
Sensitivity to his fellow human beings and a clear vision
of the function of a university surely played their parts, too.
Sterling attracted talented faculty who in turn attracted
talented students, and he kept the momentum going by
supporting and encouraging both.
Wally Sterling was a big man, physically, intellectually,
and spiritually. He shared his gifts with a generosity to
match. Stanford, and for that matter all of us, are the richer
for it.
San Jose Mercury-News
July 4, 1985
The Los Angeles Times printed this letter in its July 20,1985
Among the many legacies left by J. Wallace Sterling but not mentioned in your July 3 report of his death -was
his service on the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission, the federal agency charged with planning the 1976
commemoration of the nation's 200th anniversary.
Wally was appointed chairman in 1969 by President
Nixon. Wally told me he felt that the appointment was
Nixon's way of apologizing for an incident at Stanford
during Nixon's term as vice president. Sterling had severely, but privately, criticized the vice president for not preparing any specific remarks for a long-scheduled and wellpublicized address to the student body. Sterling felt no one,
no matter his position, had the right to treat students so
Wally also liked to laugh about the time in 1970 that the
Ladies of Mount Vernon invited him to dinner. Wally asked
me to go along as the Bicentennial Commission's executive
consultant. On the ride back to Washington, we were greatly amused by the tenor of the questions we had fielded.
Both of us felt that there had been an undercurrent of
suspicion that Wally -Canadian by birth - and I -born
in England - were somehow envisioning a commemoration that would culminate in the former colonies rejoining
the British Empire.
As a former student under him at Stanford, as a colleague,
and as a friend, I have known no one else who was as kind,
as thoughtful, and as concerned about others. What made
Wally Sterling so special was his ability to show and act on
this interest, whether he was focused on one person, a
classroom of students, an entire university, or the nation as
a whole.
Godfrey Harris
Los Angeles
utes to the late J.E. Wallace Sterling by
Ier Foundation 1980- ; President,
Stanford University 1970-80
When I came to Stanford to teach history in 1958, Wally
Sterling was almost exactly halfway through his 19-year
presidency, and operating at the top of his form.
Perhaps the key to his phenomenal success at Stanford
was his ability to bring together diverse elements in the
University and its outside constituencies, to appeal to old
supporters and new with equal effectiveness. To old Stanford stalwarts he brought assurance that the institution as
conceived by the Founders was intact and would remain
so, even through enormous changes in funding and overall
To kew and potential friends he brought a vision of
unlimited possibilities for this thriving campus on the rim
of the Pacific. This was not done by deception or by concealing his ambitions for the place. Rather it was a triumph
of personal style and sensitivity to the hopes and fears of
Later on, developments at Stanford as at other leading
universities put this success seriously at risk; institutional
loyalties were strained by the unprecedented waves of dissension and rebellion on campus. Consensus as to the nature and purposes of a university was simply impossible for
a time, and I have always thought it particularly poignant
that towards the close of "the Sterling Years" Wally had to
face so much damage to the climate in which the University
had flourished. Fortunately, he lived to see all that change,
too, and to find himself re-established in the overwhelming
majority of Stanford hearts and minds as the heroic figure
who had led the University to and then over that famous
"edge of greatness."
For Wally Sterling at Stanford it is impossible not to
think of Sir Christopher Wren's epitaph in the great Gathedral of St. Paul's: Si monumentum requiris, circumspice -If
you seek his monument, look about you!
He will need no other, he deserves no less.
Donald Kennedy
President, Stanford University 1980Wally Sterling perfectly embodied the sense of Stanford I
had as a young faculty member here. Both were big, vivid,
encouraging, informal, on the move, unafraid to let a little
emotion show. Once he talked me out of leaving, on the
strength of little more than conviction and expectation.
That was enough for me then, and thereafter.
His leadership of Stanford lasted nearly all of two extraordinary decades, and it was marked by much more than
growth and improvement. Those were, to be sure, remarkable; David Riesman was right when he said, mainly of
that period, "Stanford has been a meteor in our business."
But amidst it all, Wally's sure grasp of principle earned the
faculty's confident regard - not a commodity that readily
survives rapid change.
Hard decisions never come easily, but for Wally they
came gracefully nonetheless. He moved the medical center,
he stood up to the purgers, he smiled after his office burned,
he danced when his back hurt. And always, he and Ann
were tireless partners in the nurturing and extension of the
Stanford family.
To only a few leaders is it given to reflect and to amplify
the values of a great institution. The resonance between
Stanford and Wally Sterling was of that unusual kind; his
love for this University was a great gift, and our love for him
will ring long after he is gone.
Peter S. Bing
President, Stanford Board of Trustees 1976-81
Wally found in each of us the qualities that made us
worthy, and then, with infinite civility, he guided and
encouraged us to develop them. His formidable knowledge
of human experience, and his personal fairness and dignity, made us instinctively turn to him, whether as a teacher,
a colleague, or a steadfast and sensitive friend. The Stanford he built, with its exuberant and changing existence
and its abiding commitment to pass his values from generation to generation, are truly the most permanent memorials
to Dr. Sterling.
Robert Minge Brown
President, Stanford Board of Trustees 1971-76
Wally Sterling molded the character of modern Stanford
into an institution of exceptional intellectual quality operating in an atmosphere of pervasive friendship. His personal charisma,attracted the outstanding faculty essential to
the academic eminence Stanford achieved under his guidance and his genuine love of people created friends for
Stanford in all walks of life.
Wally Sterling was greatness with grace - a friend who
enriched our lives and leaves us with fond memories which
we shall always treasure.
W. Parmer Fuller I11
President, Stanford Board of Trustees 1967-71
Wally touched the lives of so many that his death brings
sadness to a host of friends around the world.
It was a privilege and a joy to observe and share in the
warmth, wit, and wisdom of Wally Sterling. He has left an
indelible mark on Stanford University. It's a legacy that
should give pride and comfort to all of us.
Morris M. Doyle
President, Stanford Board of Trustees 1962-64
I think Wally Sterling was Stanford's greatest president.
(David Starr) Jordan was tenacious and defended the new
venture against imminent collapse, but Sterling led a renaissance that moved Stanford into the front rank - the
veritable blooming of the aspirations of the Founders. None
of us who watched it shall forget it, nor will the generations
to come. What a privilege to have known him as a warm
friend and colleague!
David Packard
President, Stanford Board of Trustees 1958-60
Wally Sterling was one of the great men of the 20th
century. He came to Stanford in 1949 and under his leadership the University rose to a position of excellence, unsurpassed by few if any universities in the United States.
He had personal warmth that radiated among his friends
and acquaintances, inspiring their loyalty, admiration, and
affection. He will be missed by all friends of Stanford and
his memory will live on.
continued from 13
year of presidency, when a protest against CIA recruitment
on campus resulted in a 57-hour sit-in by several hundred
students at the Old Union.
Although there were heated arguments over appropriate
disciplinary measures for the students, Sterling was gratified when, a few months later, the Academic Council -the
faculty governing body - agreed that disruption of University activities or physical damage of University property
would not be tolerated.
Weakened by serious illness and a subsequent operation,
Sterling had publicly announced in March 1967 that he
would retire in September 1968.
Two months before his retirement, an arsonist crept into
Sterling's office, sprinkled gasoline over his desk, and set it
ablaze, destroying many of his cherished mementos from
nearly four decades in higher education. "It was the fate of
the times," he later commented.
Sterling became chancellor of the University upon his
retirement and moved to a new office on the fourth floor of
Meyer Library. The following year he was elected to the
board of trustees, where he served until 1976.
During his active retirement, Sterling also served as
chairman of the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission and was national co-chairman of the $300 million
1972-77 Campaign for Stanford, the largest successfully
completed capital drive in the history of American higher
education at that time.
Sterling also found time to serve as the founding president of Filoli Center in Woodside from 1976 through 1978,
and then as chairman of its national advisory board. The
historic Filoli estate includes an old mansion, worldfamous gardens, and 500 acres of land.
In his lone" career as an educator. Sterling" received honorary degrees from academic institutions in this country and
abroad. held membershi~sin more than 20 eovernmental
and educational boards aAd commissions, a& belonged to
seven scholarly associations in history, political science,
and international affairs. He served as president of the
Association of American Universities, a consortium of major research universities, from 1961 to 1963.
In honor of his contributions to education, Queen Elizabeth I1 awarded him an honorary knighthood in 1976.
Sterling served three terms as chairman of the Pacific Region Committee for the Marshall Scholarships, given by the
British people each year to 30 outstanding American students. The British Embassy described Sterling as "an
academic figure of international status, but above all a
scholar of British history and a devoted friend of Britain."
Sterling also received honors from France, Japan, Austria, and the Federal Republic of Germany.
In 1978 the Stanford Associates awarded him the University's highest honor, the "Degree of Uncommon Man."
Stanford confers no honorary degrees.
In October 1983, Sterling and his wife, Ann, were honored at the dedication of a new 360-bed student dormitory
complex known as Sterling Quadrangle. Speaking at the
dedication, Stanford President Donald Kennedy called
Sterling "a remarkable man who was and is remarkably
loved. He has an extraordinary capacity to reach out and
influence others without even knowing he's doing so.
"In all of academic history in this country, no university
has ever advanced so far under the leadership of a single
The lighter side of Wally Sterling at Stanford
by Don Carlson
The abbreviated biography on the back of the program
that was hastily printed for his memorial service last month
began with this paragraph:
"J.E. Wallace Sterling, Canadian by birth, American
citizen by choice, British in spirit, gardener at heart, Stanford University's chancellor from 1968 until his death, its
president from 1949 until 1968, brought this institution up
from a well-respected university on the west coast of the
United States to stand among the world's finest."
Wallace Sterling was and did all these things, and he was
and did much more. He was a superbly trained writer and
public speaker. He was also a marvelous teller of stories,
and in their telling he brought his wisdom, warmth, and his
reassuring humor to just about everyone who knew him.
Onlv a few of his stories. anecdotes. and limericks ever
appeared in print. Some, to be sure, were in his handwritten letters to friends. But many of his personal files with
copies of his letters were destroyed when his office was
burned by an arsonist in 1968,and if there were copies, they
have simply disappeared. Too bad, because no one could
rewrite or retell a Wally story and get the same result.
Some of his stories have evolved into a sort of private
Wally Sterling lore that is greatly overshadowed by more
serious, worldly Sterling prose. Anyway, here are a few
anecdotes we venture to pass along.
In the 1950s when Herbert Hoover was well along in
years and the trustees were gathered on the campus for the
annual commencement ceremony. President Sterling
talked him into putting on a robe (he wouldn't wear a
mortarboard) and walking with him in the academic procession to Frost Amphitheater. As they walked along Wally
tried, as he had earlier, to persuade Hoover to say a few
words to the graduates. Hoover refused. As they started
down the center aisle of the amphitheater the crowd recognized the former president of the United States and began to
stand up and applaud. Wally said, "Now you can't say no."
Hoover finally grunted an "all right."
As Wally told it, the speaker that day talked for 45 minutes with nothing to say. After that he put on Hoover, and
after his introductory salutation Hoover said, "I have three
Ann and Wally Sterling in 1968
observations to make. Number one, when you came to
Stanford you embarked on a great opportunity. Number
two, as you leave Stanford you embark on an even greater
opportunity. Number three, make the most of it, and God
bless you." And he returned to his seat to another standing
Hoover stayed with the Sterlings in their campus home
every summer for a dozen years. The Sterling family was
also his family while he was at Stanford, and their house
was the one that he and Mrs. Hoover had built and lived in
after the first World War. Following her death in 1944, he
gave the house to the University and it is now the home of
Stanford's presidents.
The Sterling-Hoover relationship was warm, deep, respectful and, at times in Hoover's last years, difficult. Wally's introduction to Hoover was during the first year of his
Stanford presidency, and it came not on a matter of University business but at the Bohemian Grove while the old
gentleman was telling a story. Wally said he could scarcely
believe his ears. "Here was a real raconteur in the lrvin
Cobb tradition," as Wally described that first impression,
"frequently with himself as the butt of the story. Marvelous."
Wally once said that he had "more than one contretemps
with the Chief, but in my experience he was not one to hold
a grudge.
"I always knew where I stood with Mr. Hoover by the
signature on his letters. If things were going well, the letter
was signed Herbert. If they were just sort of in
was signed HH, And if they weren't going well, it was
Herbert Hoover."
Many of Wally's faculty coIleagues recall the anecdote
about what Edgar Robinson did to him during his oral
examination for the Ph.D. in 1932. Robinson was one of
Stanford's great teachers of American history and the lorngtime head of the History Department. Wally's special field
was British history. When the examination shifted to American history, "where my knowledge left a great deal to be
desired," Wally painfully admitted, "Edgar asked that I
name him a president of the United States. I did. And then
he asked me to name two more. Well, after I had named
about eight, he said, 'Now, Wallace, name me one more,
and let's talk about him!' "
That experience did not stand in the way of a lasting
friendship, but Wally admitted without any pain at all that
"I never quite forgave Edgar for that."
Ann Sterling's presence was always acutely, often grandly, and sometimes humorously felt. Wally appreciated her
bracing support and he especially enjoyed telling of her
ways of putting certain deserving persons in their places.
During one of the Sterlings' annual receptions for the faculty, she realized she was being trapped in conversation with
the most notable of the campus bores. This fellow, Prof.
Boggygas (not his name), never talked about anything but
himself. Just then a young faculty couple approached. Mrs.
Sterling introduced them to our notable bore with: "This is
Professor Newcomer and Mrs. Newcomer, Dr. Boggygas . . .
wouldn't it be nice if you told them how interesting you
Cedro Cottage Mysteries
Various questions have been raised
about the interpretation of Cedro Cottage
photographs and archival materials published in the Spring 1985 (Vol. 9, No. 3)
issue of Sandstone and Tile. While we
have no definitive answers, here are some
of the interesting questions raised. The
editors would welcome any additional
information that might shed light on the
following points:
Historian Dorothy Regnery believes
that the photograph of a shed barn (page
9) may actually be that of one of the small
barns on the Palo Alto Stock Farm that
resembles the shed barn in style. However, the early 20th-century albumen print
of this photographic view (originally in
the collection of the Stanford Museum
and now in the University Archives) is
labeled in the handwriting of Harry C.
Peterson, curator of the Stanford Museum
from 1900 to 1917: "Barnat Cedro Cottage
built by Ariel Lathrop to keep his own
While Peterson, an avid
amateur photographer, knew the Stanfords and was familiar with the Stock
Farm, did he confuse his scenes?
A view looking north at an ornate
tower, neat barn, and pasture land sprinkled with oaks was shown on pages 8-9.
Regnery suggests that this may actually be
a view of a different complex, perhaps in
the area of present Atherton north of the
railroad tracks. "There is a third picture,
showing the elaborate water tank and
barn with a very large, new two-story
Victorian house in the foreground. (That
house) never existed at Cedro. According
to the 1953 pencilled inscription on the
back of the photo it was a schoolhouse,"
according to Regnery.
Unfortunately, to make matters more
confusing, in the same handwriting (that
of Ruth Scibird, then curator of the Stanford Collection) on the back of the photograph is the identification: "Cedro Cottage grounds, tank house and barn left,
schoolhouse (?) at right."
Another suggestion is that this mysterious "schoolhouse" noted by Scibird
may be the short-lived schoolhouse for
Palo Alto Stock Farm employees and
their children, a special project of Mrs.
Stanford. The schoolhouse is mentioned
in documents about the Stanford family
and the Farm but has never been located
on contemporary maps of the Farm property, which borderd the Cedro Cottage
property to the southeast.
The University Register records no
occupants of Cedro Cottage from 1902
through the 1905-06 term until the residence of Thorstein Veblen. Regnery re-
Is this a photograph of buildings at Cedro Cottage before the turn of the century or of
another local property? Historians disagree. See story
minds us, however, of the reminiscences
misread her own writing? Read again
of "Sam" MacDonald, who lived at Cedro
her all-too-brief description: "grounds
Cottage from 1904 until Veblen's arrival.
perfectly laid out" . . . "flowers of all
His memories of the house, published in
kinds arranged in parterres" . . . "the
1954 in Sam MacDonald's Farm, describe
beautiful sparkling lake in front of the
the Cottage, its surroundings, and its furwindow" . . . the barn "inlaid in two
nishing. The house had been rarely occukinds of wood found only in Califorpied since Lathrop's leaving, MacDonald
nia." Doesn't this sound much more
notes, and since little care was given the
like a description of the Latham home,
grounds, the dwelling was regarded as
later to be the Hopkins' "Sherwood
Hall" than a description of modest
Another mystery is the confusion of
Cedro Cottage?
Lillie de Hegermann-Lindencrone in her
(At the Latham residence) the barn
descriptions of the locations of her enterwas of considerable interest, as it was
tainments on the Peninsula i n 1877.
built, inside and outside, walls and
"Senator Sharon's country place" is misceiling, with tongue-and-groove red
placed, points out Regnery. The party was
and white cedar, the two woods alterat Belmont, which Sharon acquired from
nating with each board so that it
the estate of William Ralston in 1875.
looked like a circus costume. The
"Sharon Heights," in Menlo Park, was a
grounds had originally been laid out
later development by Sharon's son.
with literally acres of flowers, reflectBoth Regnery and William Moran have
ing pools, and an artificial lake just
suggested that de Hegermannoutside the main building.
Lindencrone confused "Lathrop" with
I knew Olaf Jenkins well, and I once
sent him this description and asked if
Bill Moran ('42),who photographed the
this could be Cedro Cottage. He told
interior and exterior of the Timothy Hopme the barn at Cedro was nothing spekins estate in Menlo Park (the former resic i a l ; n o i n l a i d w o o d s , etc. T h e
dence of Senator Milton Latham) just bepolished floor he described was a runfore the contents and much of the buildway for moving bales of hay in the
ing were auctioned in 1942,wrote to Peter
center of the upper floor. He said there
Allen, author of the Cedro Cottage story:
was no way one could see Lake Lagunita from Cedro, and he agreed with
Dear Peter Allen:
that Lillie's description was most
. . .In 1877, the building was the resprobably "Sherwood Hall." Unfortuidence of Senator Milton S. Latham.
nately, for historical purposes, this
Lillie de Hegermann-Lindencrone and
was not a letter, but an oral comparty had arrived from the East with
letters of introduction to Governor
-Bill Moran, La Canada, Calif.
Stanford who, as you noted, entertained the party at his San Francisco
residence on Nob Hill. Her next visit Responds author Peter C. Allen:
was to the home of Senator Sharon.
Dear Bill Moran:
Would she then be likely to visit next
You make a very persuasive case for
the unpretentious cottage home of
the proposition that Lillie de HegerAriel Lathrop, although he may well
mann-Lindencrone meant "Latham
have been a member of the group of
place" w h e n she wrote "Lathrop
people she met?
place" in her letter of 1877. This is a
Could she have been a little conpuzzle that niay never be solved for
fused and written "Lathro~"instead of
sure, but I think at least we should no
"Latham"? Or
when she
longer assume that the party visited
transcribed the handwritten letter for
Cedro Cottage.
her book, presumably ca. 1914, she
-Pete Allen
Kenneth C. Christensen
Kenneth C. Christensen, former member of the Historical Society's Board of
Directors, died of heart disease in Menlo
Park Wednesday, July 3. He was 77.
Born and reared in Palo Alto, he was
the son of Christian H. Christensen, a
businessman and mayor of Palo Alto in
the 1920s.
After graduating from Stanford in 1930,
Christensen went to work for Pacific Gas
and Electric Co. in San Francisco. He
worked his way up to senior vice president and chief financial officer by the
time he retired in 1970. He also served as
a director of the company.
Among his many activities during retirement, Christensen served as a trustee
of Golden Gate University in San Francisco. He was a member of the Pacific Union
Besides his work with the Historical
Society, he served as president of the
Stanford Associates, which presented
him the prestigious Gold Spike award in
1975 for volunteer fundraising. He also
was a member of the Alumni Association,
the Buck Club, and the Associates of the
Stanford Libraries.
He served on the executive and steering
committees of the PACE Campaign in the
early 1960s.
He is survived by his wife of 40 years,
Anne Christensen of Menlo Park; a
brother, Phillip C. Christensen of Palo
Alto; and three sisters, Lois Brenner of
Menlo Park, Dorothy Hanner of Mountain
View, and Lucy Hill of Palo Alto.
No services were held. The family prefers contributions to the Kenneth C.
Christensen Memorial Fund at Stanford.
Gabor Szego
Gabor Szego, professor emeritus of
mathematics at Stanford and chairman of
the department from 1938 to 1954, died
Aug. 7 at his home in Palo Alto after a long
illness. He was 90.
Colleagues called him "a distinguished
mathematician who played an essential
role in establishing a center of mathematics at Stanford."
Szego was an authority on complex
m a t h e m a t i c a l a n a l y s i s , orthogonal
polynomials, and applied mathematics.
His book with Stanford Prof. Emeritus
George Polya, Aufgaben und Lehrsaetze
a u s der Analysis (Problems and
Theorems in Analysis), first published in
Berlin in 1924, is considered a classic in
the field. Several editions were printed,
including a translation into English, and
Stanford Historical Society
P.O. Box 2328
Stanford, California 94305
Board of Directors
Bruce Wiggins, President
Alfred Grommon, Vice President
Olivia Byler, Secretary
Maurine Buma, Treasurer
Karen Bartholomew
Chester Berry
Robert Butler
George Knoles
Jeffery Littleboy
John Mitchell
Walter Peterson
Frances Schiff
Rixford Snyder
Membership: Membership is open to all who are interested
in Stanford history. Dues are: students, $5; regular, one
person at address, $10; regular, two persons at same
address, $15; supporting, $25; sustaining, $50; patron $100
to $1,000. Make check payable to Stanford Historical Society and mail to above address. For further information, contact the Historical Society at the Office of Public Affairs,
Newsletter Co-editors: Karen Bartholomew & Roxanne
Nilan. Design: Stanford News and Publications Service.
Photos fiom Stanford News and Publications Service or the
Stanford University Archives, unless noted.
The Newsletter is published four times a year - Autumn,
Winter, Spring, and Summer. Please notify us promptly of
address changes by sending in corrected address label.
Summer 1985, Volume 9, No. 4
it is still widely used.
Szego was born in Kunhegyes, Hungary, i n 1895 and received his doctoral
degree from the University of Vienna in
1918. He later taught at the Technical
School i n Budapest, the University of
Berlin, and the University of Koenigsberg
before fleeing Hitler's armies in 1934 and
coming to the United States.
Szego taught at the University of
Washington in St. Louis for four years
before joining the faculty at Stanford.
From 1944 to 1946 he taught at the American University in Biarritz, France, an experimental college set up by the Army for
about 10,000 GIs and French, British,
Dutch, and Canadian officers.
He served on an American Mathematical Society committee to aid libraries in
devastated countries, and in the late
1950s he spearheaded a drive to provide
scholarships for selected Hungarian refugees to study at Stanford. He retired in
Szego was a member of the American
Academy of Arts and Sciences, the
Mathematical Association of America,
the American Mathematical Society, the
Academy of Sciences in Vienna, and in
1966 he was elected to the Hungarian
Academy of Sciences.
Szego is survived by a daughter, Veronica Szego Tincher of Pasadena Calif.; a
son, Peter Szego of San Jose (both Stanford graduates); and three grandchildren.
Non-Profit Org.
Pa10 Alto, Calif.
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