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This story took place some 130 years ago.

A lady in a faded gingham dress and her husband, dressed in a homespun
threadbare suit, stepped off the train in Boston , and walked timidly
without an appointment into the Harvard University President's outer
The secretary could tell in a moment that such backwoods, country hicks
had no business at Harvard & probably didn't even deserve to be in
Cambridge .
"We'd like to see the president," the man said softly.
"He'll be busy all day," the secretary snapped.
"We'll wait," the lady replied.
For hours the secretary ignored them, hoping that the couple would
finally become discouraged and go away.
They didn't, and the secretary grew frustrated and finally decided to
disturb the president, even though it was a chore she always regretted.
"Maybe if you see them for a few minutes, they'll leave," she said to
He sighed in exasperation and nodded. Someone of his importance
obviously didn't have the time to spend with them, and he detested
gingham dresses and homespun suits cluttering up his outer office.
The president, stern faced and with dignity, strutted toward the couple.
The lady told him, "We had a son who attended Harvard for one year. He
loved Harvard. He was happy here. But about a year ago, he was
accidentally killed. My husband and I would like to erect a memorial to
him, somewhere on campus."
The president wasn't touched. He was shocked. "Madam," he said, gruffly,
"we can't put up a statue for every person who attended Harvard and
died. If we did, this place would look like a cemetery."
"Oh, no," the lady explained quickly. "We don't want to erect a statue.
We thought we would like to give a building to Harvard."
The president rolled his eyes. He glanced at the gingham dress and
homespun suit, then exclaimed, "A building! Do you have any earthly
idea how much a building costs? We have over seven and a half million
dollars in the physical buildings here at Harvard."
For a moment the lady was silent. The president was pleased. Maybe he
could get rid of them now.
The lady turned to her husband and said quietly, "Is that all it cost to
start a university? Why don't we just start our own? " Her husband
nodded. The president's face wilted in confusion and bewilderment.
Mr. and Mrs. Leland Stanford got up and walked away, traveling to Palo
Alto, California where they established the university that bears their
name, Stanford University, a memorial to a son that Harvard no longer
cared about.
You can easily judge the character of others by how they treat those who
they think can do nothing for them.
--- A TRUE STORY By Malcolm Forbes

2,330 Posts
The truth from Stanford's own website. No mention of their 15 year old son attending Harvard. Sorry, but the above makes a good story.

The Founding of the University

On Oct. 1, 1891, Stanford University opened its doors after six years of planning and building. In the early morning hours, construction workers were still preparing the Inner Quadrangle for the ceremonies. The great arch at the western end had been backed with panels of red and white cloth to form an alcove where dignitaries would sit.

The 2,000 seats set up in the three-acre Quad soon proved insufficient for the growing crowd. By midmorning, people were streaming across fields on foot. At half past 10, the special train from San Francisco arrived on the temporary spur that had been used during construction. As a faculty member recalled, “Hope was in every heart, and the presiding spirit of freedom prompted us to dare greatly.”

Jane and Leland Stanford established the university in memory of their only child, Leland Jr., who died of typhoid fever at 15. Within weeks of his 1884 death, the Stanfords determined that, because they no longer could do anything for their own child, they would use their wealth to do something for “other people’s” children.

They settled on creating a great university, one that, from the outset, was untraditional: coeducational in a time when most private universities were all-male; nondenominational when most were associated with a religious organization; and avowedly practical, producing “cultured and useful citizens” when most were concerned only with the former.

Leland Stanford devoted to the university the fortune he had amassed, first by supplying provisions to the ’49ers mining for California gold and later as one of the “Big Four,” whose Central Pacific Railroad laid tracks eastward to meet the Union Pacific and complete the transcontinental railway. Included in the grant to the new university was the Stanfords’ more than 8,000-acre Palo Alto Stock Farm for the breeding and training of trotting horses and thoroughbred stock, 35 miles south of the family’s San Francisco residence. The campus still carries the nickname “the Farm.”

Under the direction of Frederick Law Olmsted, the famed landscape architect who created New York’s Central Park, and Charles Allerton Coolidge, a 28-year-old who designed the buildings, the farm’s open fields became the site of arcades and quadrangles. In a 1913 letter, Stanford’s first president, David Starr Jordan, wrote: “The yellow sandstone arches and cloisters, the ‘red-tiled roofs against the azure sky,’ make a picture that can never be forgotten, itself an integral part of a Stanford education.”

On the university’s opening day, Jordan said to Stanford’s Pioneer Class: “It is for us as teachers and students in the university’s first year to lay the foundations of a school which may last as long as human civilization. ... It is hallowed by no traditions; it is hampered by none. Its finger posts all point forward.”

Gene Batchelar
Wheaton, IL

16,536 Posts
The above link is well worth reading. I enjoyed it immensely.

I doubt if things have changed there since the 70's.

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