Letter from the President

CHALLENGE OF THE WEST

By Gerhard Casper





SURELY ONE OF Stanford’s distinctive characteristics is what one might call a Western spirit of pioneering, entrepreneurship, energy.

In his autobiography, Stanford’s first president, David Starr Jordan, quotes from an article by Ellen Elliott, a member of Stanford’s early “Cornell Colony,” as she relates life on the Farm to former colleagues in Ithaca:

President 
Gerhard Casper “Perhaps it is the spirit of the West, perhaps it is the vital breath of the Pacific, coming in to us over the mountains, but whatever it may be, some enchantment has blinded us to the crudities, the drawbacks, the limitations of our state. . . . Christmas shall bring you, and the months of spring shall bring you, critical, skeptical, curious, speering after our library, questioning about our funds, and you shall return ­ if you return at all ­ chanting as fervently and irrelevantly as we, ‘Die Luft der Freiheit weht.’ ”

That phrase by the humanist Ulrich von Hutten ­ “The Wind of Freedom Blows” ­ already had taken root as Stanford’s unofficial motto, and with good reason. It constituted not only a statement about freedom of inquiry but also a strong element of challenge. When Jordan decided to leave the Midwest to come to Stanford, he wrote to his mentor, Cornell President Andrew Dickson White, that he was prepared “to take whatever came” and quoted two lines from a poem by Hutten: “With open eyes I have dared, and cherish no regret. . . .”

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MAY/JUNE1996

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DEPARTMENTS
 President’s Letter

NEWS
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 Restoring the Quad
 Christopher Speech
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 Sci & Med
 Fiscal Challenges
 Ants Yield Clues
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 Sports
 Olympic Coaches
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FEATURES
 Engineering Leadership
 James Gibbons
 John Hennessy

 Martin Luther King Jr.
 Clayborne Carson
 King Papers

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