Hammarskjold House: A History

The house was formerly the home of the Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity. The plans for the house were initiated by several foreign students who were looking to have a place on campus and also were actively involved in the Bechtel International Center . In 1970, Richard Lyman took office as the seventh president of the university. Alfredo Prelat (MS'71,PhD'74) with the support of foreign students and the Bechtel International Center requested to President Lyman to have a place on campus for international students and Americans students that wanted to live with people from different cultures. Several names were proposed for the new international house. After a long debate the name of Dag Hammarskjöld was selected in honor of the UN secretary General who died in a plane accident while on a peace mission in Congo . Clifford Clarke, the foreign student advisor said of Hammarskjöld, "This new concept of a living group (will be) composed of people from other cultures who want to participate in educational and social programs to facilitate mutual understanding and respect."

Alfredo Prelat from Argentina became the first president of Hammarskjöld House and Marie Antoinette Plot from France the Vice President. There were twelve students when Dag Hammarshold House opened as well as a dog named "Simon". In the early years, Hammarskjöld was supported by the general direction of Clarke and F. Lee Ziegler, the director of the I-Center. Early residents have remarked that an equally strong reason for creating the house was the founders' belief that Americans who spent a lot of time in other countries returned to the U.S. somehow changed. Hammarskjöld would be a place for them to nurture these differences and explore their own experiences. The first most colorful guest at Hammarskjöld was the President of the United Nations General Assembly, Mr. Stanislaw Trepczynski from Poland . He and his wife stayed in a room on the second floor with two Algerian body guards next door. Other Friday dinner guests in the early days of Hammarskjold included Dr. Linus Pauling, Dr. W. K. H. Panofski and Director Seij Ozawa.

In March of 1977, student protest against Stanford's investment in South Africa became active. The University higher-ups seemed to be ignoring the issue of the University's moral responsibilities, for example; although students were vocal in their objections, the Board of Trustees would not even raise the issue at its meetings. Students took over Old Union to protest both the University's tacit support of apartheid and their unresponsiveness to student concerns. University police began to arrest protesters. During the night, Hammarskjöld became the command center of the protest. Hammies started a phone network, and called a crowd of several hundred people out to support the protesters. Hammies also cooked food for those inside and outside the building.

The make-up of the house has changed from year to year. In the first two years the residents were from Norway, England, France, India, Tanzania, Argentina, Mexico, Taiwan, Japan, Brazil, Switzerland, Iran, Turkey, Hong Kong and USA. Some years the international students in the house were predominantly from East Asia, other years from Europe . This year many of the residents and eating associates are from India. Hammarskjöld is fond of its traditions, which include ringing the dinner bell, Friday evening happy hours/wine clubs and the big dinner parties at Thanksgiving and Chinese New Year. For these parties, house members decorate the house and prepare food for 200 people, including past members of Hammarskjöld who are invited, and assorted other guests. Hammarskjöld's personality has changed from year to year. One current eating associate mentioned that the house used to be more "co-opy." Resident satisfaction with and pride in Hammarskjöld reached an all-time high in March 1990. After many challenges bravely fought and hurdles valiantly overcome, the Ping Pong table arrived, and the joyous sound of rubber connecting with white plastic echoed throughout the halls of Hammarskjöld.

This write-up was very kindly provided by Dr. Alfredo Prelat, the first president of Hammarskjold House.