Pitzer was successfully installed as Stanford's sixth president. But in what presaged what was to come, he remarked, "It would be a great honor to accept the presidency of Stanford at any time, but this year the responsibility appears particularly heavy."
Pitzer's tenure lasted only 18 months. In a resignation letter to the Board of Trustees, he wrote that "deep divisions beset our country" and "as a result, pressures tending to distract or disrupt the educational process have increased significantly. These trends have made it increasingly difficult to obtain the very broad and active support from all those groups who together are responsible for the well-being of the university."