Stanford was established in 1885 by then-California Governor and railroad man Leland Stanford and his wife, Jane. They named the school after their son, Leland Jr, who died of typhoid. The impetus for creating a school on their horse farm, of which Leland Jr was so fond, was to create an institution that would serve “the children of California.”
The school opened its doors in October 1891 to 559 students and 15 faculty seven of whom had previously taught at Cornell University. There was no tuition through the 1930’s and though intended to be a coed institution at the outset, there was a cap on female enrollment to ensure that the school did not became all-female, as Jane Stanford feared it could, which would not be an appropriate memorial to their son.
Although many of the original buildings were destroyed by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, Stanford retains the Quad, the old Chemistry Building, and Encina Hall (the residence of Herbert Hoover, John Steinbeck, and Anthony Kennedy during their times at Stanford). After the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake inflicted further damage, Stanford spent a billion dollars to retrofit and renovate older buildings for newer uses.
Stanford’s campus is a whopping 8,180 acres, and some argue that it is the largest campus in the world in terms of contiguous land. It is an open, pastoral campus with palm trees, grassy fields, eucalyptus groves, rolling hills, and open arcades and quadrangles built in the Spanish-colonial style. The red tile roofs and solid sandstone buildings give the university a distinctly Californian look, and most of the newer buildings were constructed so as to complement this Mission Revival style.
White Plaza is one of the social centers of campus. In the middle of the plaza is The Claw (a famous sculpture/fountain), and right around it are the Stanford Bookstore, Tressider Union (administration, food, banks), Old Union (admissions, financial aid), the CoHo (coffee house), Dinkelspiel Auditorium, and the Braun Music Center. A short walk north brings you to the Main Quad—the center of campus—flanked by sandstone arcades that house a number of departmental buildings. The gorgeous Memorial Church also sits on the quad. It dates to 1903, and its golden fresco and stained glass windows look out over The Oval and Palm Drive, from which many of Stanford’s visitors arrive.
Another landmark visible from much of campus is Hoover Tower, a red-capped 285-foot obelisk that is part of the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank on campus. Next to Hoover is Green Library, which houses more than 2 million books, a multimedia center, and special collections. Not far from that is Memorial Auditorium (1,700 seats), where many of Stanford’s biggest performances and large events take place.
Other notable landmarks include the Cantor Center for Visual Arts, Frost Amphitheatre, Stanford Mausoleum, Rodin Sculpture Garden, Papua New Guinea Sculpture Garden, Stanford University Arboretum, The Dish (a radio telescope in the hills), Stanford Stadium, Bechtel International Center, Stanford Golf Course, Lake Lagunita, and the Stanford Linear Accelerator. In addition, Frank Lloyd Wright's 1937 Hanna House and the Lou Henry and Herbert Hoover House (1919) are both National Historic Landmarks on university grounds.
Since walking across campus can take half an hour, most students navigate the campus by bike (there are 12,000 bike racks on campus to accommodate them, as well as a university bike shop). Students can also get around campus—as well as to and from Palo Alto—via the Marguerite Shuttles, which run frequently and circle the campus.
Stanford is located next to Palo Alto, in the San Francisco Bay Area. It is about 37 miles southeast of San Francisco and about 20 miles northwest of San Jose. Both cities (as well as a number of others like Mountain View and Redwood City) can easily be reached via the Caltrain, which stops in Palo Alto. The main San Francisco stop on the Caltrain is right next to the AT&T Park, where the Giants play, and about ten minutes from the central urban area of Union Square.
Palo Alto is separated from Stanford’s campus by El Camino Real, which was once a trail connecting Spanish Missions. Located at the north end of Silicon Valley, the city is home to approximately 60,000 people and a number of high-profile technology companies. According to the Coldwell Banker Home Price Comparison Index, Palo Alto is the most expensive college town in the United States, and the fifth most expensive city overall, with an average home sales price of $1,677,000 as of 2007. Because of real estate prices, at least 90 percent of Stanford students live on campus.
Palo Alto’s main thoroughfare is University Avenue, which is home to a number of bars, restaurants, and stores which Stanford students frequent. The Stanford Theatre is an old cinema on the avenue that dates back to 1925 and still screens vintage movies, sometimes with live musical accompaniment. The Aquarius Theatre, CineArts at Palo Alto Square, and The Guild Theatre in neighboring Menlo Park are other nearby outlets for independent and arts cinema. There are also some popular drama theaters in the area, including the San Jose Repertory Theatre and the Palo Alto Players.
Also a short bike ride from campus is the Stanford Shopping Center. This upscale open-air shopping mall is located on El Camino Real at Sand Hill Road, which loops around campus past the sprawling Sand Hill Fields. Department stores in the complex include Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, and Nordstrom’s, and among the restaurants are the Palo Alto Creamery (a student favorite) and P.F. Chang’s. The land is owned by the university, but both the shopping center and the neighboring Stanford University Medical Center are actually part of the city of Palo Alto.
Some other popular student destinations require a car to get to, including Heavenly Ski Resort (six hours), the beaches of Santa Cruz (one hour), and the redwood forests of Yosemite National Park (eight hours).
The first full moon of the year, students gather in the Main Quad of the university. Traditionally, seniors exchange kisses with freshmen at midnight, but in reality students of all four classes have been known to participate. There are costumes, streakers, and a live band.
The annual football game against Berkeley is known as the Big Game. The game is preceded by Gaieties, the student-produced musical follies. The winner of the game takes home the coveted “Axe.”
Students like explore the vast network of steam tunnels under the Stanford campus. The steam-tunneling tradition is definitely NOT condoned by the university.
A film is screened on most Sunday nights in Memorial Auditorium, an event known as Sunday Flicks. The movies are preceded by a Merry Melodies cartoon, as well as a huge paper fight. Students come prepared with newspapers and paper airplanes.
Both day and night, students can be seen playing in Stanford's various fountains - popular spots for fountain hopping include the one outside Green Library, and The Claw in White Plaza.
The Primal Scream is performed by stressed students at midnight during Dead Week, the week before finals.
Midnight Breakfast is served by Stanford faculty to students in several dining halls on campus during the Dead Week of Winter Quarter.
The Viennese Ball is a formal ball started in the 1970s by students returning from the now-closed Stanford in Vienna program. Participants take waltzing classes in preparation for the ball, and conclude the night with the traditional Congress of Vienna Waltz.
Organized by the Stanford American Indian Organization, the Stanford Powwow is held every Mother's Day weekend in the eucalyptus groves near the Stanford Stadium. The event draws huge numbers - according to the Stanford Daily, some 30,000 people participated in the 2007 Powwow.
Most Thursdays during the school year, seniors gather together at a bar in Palo Alto or San Francisco selected by the student government for Senior Pub Night. The location changes each week, and chartered buses are organized to take the seniors safely between the bar and campus.
Held since 2004, the Stanford Dance Marathon is a 24-hour dance-a-thon which raises money for Partners in Health and involves a number of Stanford’s many dance groups.
Each January the Ram’s Head Theatrical Society presents Ram’s Head Winter One-Acts, a weekend of student-written and student-performed one-acts. The event is held in January.
Each Spring Ram’s Head presents a musical in Memorial Auditorium that draws large numbers of students, faculty, family members, and local residents. The 2008 show was a production of The Wild Party.
There is an annual Mausoleum Party on Halloween at the Stanford mausoleum. The party didn’t happen from 2001 to 2005 because of the fear that the festivities would worsen conditions at the deteriorating mausoleum, but the party was revived in 2006.
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer (1959) is a US Supreme Court Justice. Breyer was appointed by former President Bill Clinton in 1994.
Michael Cunningham (1975) is an author who won the Pulitzer Prize for The Hours.
Gray Davis (1964) is a former governor of California.
Dianne Feinstein (1955) is the senior senator from California.
William Hewlett (1934) was a co-founder of Hewlett-Packard.
Herbert Hoover (1895) was the 31st president of the United States.
Anthony Kennedy (1958) is a US Supreme Court Justice. Kennedy was nominated in 1988 former President by Ronald Reagan.
Richard Levin (1968) is the president of Yale University.
David Packard (1934) was a co-founder of Hewlett-Packard.
Jerry Yang (1990) is founder of Yahoo!
The Stanford Cardinal compete in 35 sports at the Division I level, in the Pac-10 Conference. Stanford has won the Directors’ Cup, which honors the most successful program in Division I sports, for the last 13 years. Stanford has earned 91 NCAA national titles, the second most of any university; 74 NCAA national titles since 1980, the most of any university; and 393 individual NCAA championships, the most of any university.
At the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Stanford was represented by 42 athletes and coaches. Stanford’s varsity athletes regularly go on to compete professionally, and the school boasts hundreds of well-known athletic alumni such like Tiger Woods, John Elway, and John McEnroe.
In addition to Stanford’s varsity teams, the school hosts more than 20 club sports. Intramurals are also popular, with more than 9,000 students, faculty, and staff participating each year in one of 37 intramural sports. Students also frequently take physical education courses (30 sports are offered) - it is estimated that 2,000 students enroll in one of the 100 or so classes each quarter.
Stanford has a 6.4 to 1 student-to-faculty ratio.
Biking is one the most popular forms of on-campus transportation, and Stanford provides 12,000 bicycle parking spaces to meet cyclists’ needs.
Stanford’s official colors are cardinal and white, and its mascot is The Tree, which can be seen dancing around at sports events. Its sports teams are referred to as The Cardinal (the color, not the bird).
Stanford has more than 600 registered student organizations.
Stanford has been represented in every summer Olympiad since 1908, and since 1912, Stanford athletes have won at least one gold medal.
The university owns 8,180 acres, and it is sometimes asserted that in terms of contiguous area, it is the largest university campus in the world. Its main competitor for sheer size is Moscow University.
Stanford's current community of scholars includes 16 Nobel laureates, four Pulitzer Prize winners, 23 MacArthur Fellows, 20 recipients of the National Medal of Science, 239 members of the American Academy of Arts and Science, and three Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients.
Stanford’s endowment is the third largest in the country, after Harvard and Yale. In 2008, its endowment was 17.2 billion dollars.
The Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, dedicated to photon science, particle physics, and particle astrophysics, was established with the US Department of Energy in 1962 and today serves more than 3,000 international scientists.
Hopkins Marine Station, located in Pacific Grove, California, is a marine biology research center owned by the university since 1892. It was the first marine laboratory on the West Coast.
Google got its start at Stanford when Sergey Brin and Larry Page developed the page-rank algorithm while they were computer science graduate students.
Sun Microsystems also started at Stanford, and "Sun" originally stood for “Stanford University Network.”
In the 1980s, John Cioffi and his students figured out how to use traditional phone lines for high-speed data transmission, resulting in patents used in asymmetric digital subscriber lines, commonly known as DSL.
Two tools crucial to genome sequencing were invented at Stanford: CHEF electrophoresis, invented in 1987 by Ron Davis, Gilbert Chu and Douglas Vollrath; and Genscan software, developed by Christopher Burge.
On-campus housing is guaranteed for four years at Stanford, and roughly 95 percent of all Stanford undergrads live on campus, with the others overseas or at the Bing Stanford in Washington Program.
Stanford’s housing system includes 78 residential facilities. Among them are theme houses that focus on language and culture, student-managed row houses, student apartments, suites, and traditional dorms. Some dorms are freshmen-only, while others give priority to sophomores. There are also dorms just for underclassmen and dorms just for juniors and seniors. Finally, there are also dorms that mix all class years. All residences are coed, and men and women live on the same floor in most.
About 13 percent of students belong to one of the 17 fraternities or 12 sororities on campus. Of these, seven fraternities and three sororities offer housing on “The Row,” which also includes most of the theme houses and some student co-ops. In the co-ops, students run all aspects of the house, and residents and eating associates each contribute work to keep the house running—students cook, clean, garden, share costs, and make managerial decisions together. Stanford’s co-ops are Chi Theta Chi, Columbae, Enchanted Broccoli Forest (EBF), Hammarskjöld (which is also the International Theme House), Kairos, Terra, and the Synergy House.
Stanford’s theme houses integrate living and learning, and each has a cross-cultural, academic/language, or other focused theme. These houses feature programs exploring their community’s history, culture, and language, and residents are expected to participate in them. Some houses have language requirements.