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The Founding of Stanford University

Paralleling these medical events during the 1880's and early 1890's was a development destined to have the profoundest influence on Cooper Medical College. This was the founding of Leland Stanford Junior University by Senator and Mrs. Leland Stanford in memory of their only child, Leland Junior.

Founding of the University was accomplished by a Grant of Endowment by Senator and Mrs. Stanford, dated 11 November 1885. To make the Grant legal under the constitution and statutes of the State of California, Senator Stanford procured passage on 9 March 1885 of an enabling act by the State legislature. [38]

Senator Leland Stanford (1824-1893), as we have already mentioned, moved from Wisconsin to California during the height of the Gold Rush in 1852 and opened a store in Cold Springs, Eldorado County. He had married Jane Lathrop (1828-1905) in 1850, but left her behind until he was able to bring her out to Sacramento in 1855 where he bought out a store from his brothers. He prospered materially and politically and on 10 January 1862, not yet thirty-eight years of age, was inaugurated as Governor of the State of California. He did not seek reelection as Governor but, instead, devoted his energies to the presidency of the Central Pacific Railroad which began laying track toward the east in 1863. The Union Pacific, laying track toward the west, met the Central Pacific at Ogden, Utah, on 10 May 1869 to complete the first transcontinental railroad.

In 1876 Governor Stanford purchased a large tract of land near a tall and time-worn Sequoia sempervirens thirty-five miles down the peninsula from San Francisco. This property, 8, 400 acres in extent and named "The Palo Alto Farm," is now the site of Stanford University. We have already referred to Governor Stanford's interest in horses and his friendship and collaboration with J. D. B. Stillman in a study of the "Horse in Motion" conducted at the Farm and published in 1882.

During the final decade of his life, Governor Stanford was immensely popular in the Republican Party. Not only was he elected U. S. Senator from California in 1885 and reelected in 1891, he was widely solicited to run for President. However, because of progressive illness he was unable to complete his second term in the Senate, and died in his sleep on the night of 20 June 1893 at the age of sixty-nine. [39] [40] [41]

The Stanfords' only child, to whom they were utterly devoted, was a son, Leland Jr. He was born 14 May 1868 in Sacramento. The tragic, defining moment of their lives occurred on 13 March 1884. On that date Mrs. Mark Hopkins, close personal friend of the Stanfords in San Francisco, received the following cablegram from Florence, Italy:


The Stanfords were prostrate with grief. The burden of their sorrow seemed unbearable until one troubled night, as vividly recalled by Governor Stanford, his son came to him in a dream, urging him not to despair of life but to "live for humanity." From that moment he resolved that he would build a university and that "the children of California shall be my children."

Governor and Mrs. Stanford never doubted the import of the revelation and on their journey back to San Francisco with the remains of their son they sought advice on the founding of a university from Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and perhaps others. Following these consultations the Stanfords, their determination undiminished, legalized the grant of endowment on 11 November 1885, less than two years after Leland Jr.'s death. The construction of the University began with the laying of the cornerstone on 14 May 1887, Leland Jr.'s nineteenth birthday and three years after his death.

Opening exercises for the University were scheduled for 1 October 1891. As Opening Day drew nearer and a University President had not yet been chosen, Mr. Stanford, now a. U. S. Senator, and Mrs. Stanford sought urgently to fill this vital position.

David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) was recommended to the Stanfords for the presidency of the new university by Andrew D. White, retired president of Cornell University at Ithaca, N. Y. The circumstances were these. In early March of 1891, the Stanfords traveled to Ithaca to ask President White to accept the presidency of Stanford University. He declined. When asked whether there was anyone he would suggest, he advised that David Starr Jordan, one of his former students and now President of Indiana University, be offered the position.

That same day, after the meeting with President White, the Stanfords headed in their private car for Bloomington, Indiana, home of Indiana University. When they arrived Jordan had gone to the University of Illinois in Urbana to give an address. Upon his return to Bloomington at five on Sunday morning, he was met on the street by one of the Trustees of Indiana University who informed him that Senator and Mrs. Stanford had arrived in their private car on the previous day and were waiting to see him at the National Hotel. Jordan recalled their meeting and his momentous decision: [42] [43]

My first impressions of Leland Stanford were extremely favorable, for even on such slight acquaintance he revealed an unusually attractive personality. His errand he explained directly and clearly. He hoped to develop in California a university of the highest order, a center of invention and research, where students should be trained for "usefulness in life." His educational ideas, it appeared, corresponded very closely with my own. Indeed, from President White he had been assured that I was the man to organize the institution he contemplated.

The Senator then went on to explain that since the formal founding of Leland Stanford Junior University in 1886, only buildings and land had been given, but that practically all the joint property of himself and wife, valued at more than $ 30,000,000, would ultimately form the endowment. Should Mrs. Stanford outlive him the bulk of the property would be willed to her, that she might still have the honor and enjoyment of giving, and not sit idly by while others administered the finances. I refer specifically to this chivalrous attitude on the part of Mr. Stanford, as it shaped the early history of the University endowment. He further stated that the board of trustees, already appointed, would remain without function during the lifetime of either founder, unless specially called upon to serve.

In conclusion he offered me the presidency of the institution at a salary of $10,000.

While I went home to discuss the matter, Mrs. Stanford and her faithful secretary, Miss Bertha Berner, attended service in a neighboring church. There a student preacher discoursed somewhat vigorously on the wrath of God. At the end, he approached the two ladies to ask if the five-dollar goldpiece Mrs. Stanford had put into the contribution basket was perhaps dropped by mistake. She reassured him on this point, but said she was not acquainted with the God he had talked about; the One she knew was "a God of Love, who pities them that fear him, even as a father pitieth his children."

After a short consultation with Mrs. Jordan, I decided with some enthusiasm to accept Mr. Stanford's offer.

David Starr Jordan was born on 19 January 1851 to a family of limited means on a farm one mile from Gainesville, N. Y. , and 50 miles south of Rochester. He was a precocious, well-adjusted boy, blessed with intelligent and understanding parents and a wholesome family life. Duties on the farm were balanced with pursuit of early "scientific" interests in the stars and geography. In later life he was to say that "my very early education I received at home, and I cannot remember when I did not know how to read. . . I remember nothing which I can fairly count as an obstacle." His primary and secondary education was in a variety of local schools where devoted teachers and an eager pupil made up for sparse resources.

While engaged in a stint of teaching school in South Warsaw, N. Y., in 1868, Jordan's preparation for college was put to the test. He decided to compete for a free scholarship to Cornell University which had been founded in Ithaca, N. Y., in 1865. Leaving one of the older boys in temporary charge of the school, he took the scholarship examination that was being held in Warsaw. He won the scholarship over three other competitors and in March 1869, full of hope and ambition, entered the new University. Prior to entering , he wrote ahead to the registrar: [44]

With youthful naiveté, I explained that I was eighteen years old, six feet tall, and weighed 180 pounds!. At that time I was a strong, muscular, though sparely built and somewhat round-shouldered, young fellow; and a good athlete, especially in sprinting and high jumping.

Entering the University in March, 1869, as a belated freshman, Jordan was able in June to pass all the prescribed first-year work except that in Physiology - which he had never studied - so that upon his return in the fall of 1869 he was admitted as a regular member of the sophomore class. During the three years which followed he completed all requirements for the degree of Bachelor of Science, besides about two years of advanced work in Botany. Taking this last into consideration, the faculty conferred upon him at graduation in June, 1872, the advanced degree of Master of Science instead of the conventional Bachelor's Degree received by the rest of the class. (We can interpose here the information that in 1886 Jordan was the recipient of the degree of Doctor of Laws, conferred simultaneously on him and retired President Andrew White by Cornell University. ) [45]

During the latter portion of his undergraduate years at Cornell, Jordan came to feel that he wanted to be a teacher of science and that the field of Vertebrate Zoology was his primary interest. With this ultimate goal in mind, at twenty-one years of age he accepted a Professorship of Natural Science at Lombard University in Galesburg, Illinois, in 1872. He resigned from Lombard in 1873 after one year of teaching which was marred by differences of scientific opinion with the outdated old guard of the institution. [46]

From Galesburg Jordan went directly to Penikese Island, a little forgotten speck on the ocean about eighteen miles from New Bedford, Massachusetts, off the heel of Cape Cod. He was one of those chosen by Professor Luis Agassiz of Harvard to constitute the first class in his proposed Summer School of Science, a program designed to improve the information and methods of teaching of American teachers of Zoology. Fifty teachers (35 men and 15 women) were chosen from hundreds of applicants for this first class of Professor Agassiz's experimental program of teaching teachers of Zoology.

During this summer of 1873, Jordan so impressed Professor Agassiz that he offered him an appointment as curator of fossil vertebrates in the Harvard Museum at Cambridge, Massachusetts. Meanwhile Professor Agassiz received a letter from the Appleton Collegiate Institute of Appleton, Wisconsin, a preparatory school emphasizing the teaching of science, requesting him to send one of his students to be Principal of the Institute. Jordan was strongly recommended, was promptly appointed, and at once set out for Appleton to undertake his new duties.

Unfortunately, the Institute was forced to close in June 1874 for financial reasons. Jordan was once more without a position and Professor Aggassiz was not to conduct another summer session on Penikese Island - he died in December 1873.

Jordan returned to Penikese in the summer of 1874. In the absence of Professor Agassiz, the program was under the direction of his noted son, Alexander Agassiz, and Professor Burt G. Wilder of Cornell. This was the school's last session, following which it closed forever.

At the end of this second and final summer of the Penikese school, Jordan's resources, and perhaps his spirits also, were running low. He was therefore pleased to receive a telegram from Superintendent George P. Brown of Indianapolis, Indiana, asking him to take up the teaching of science in the High School there in the fall of 1874. He gladly accepted the position. [47]

While engaged with his work in the Indianapolis High School, he was also able to spend some time in the near-by Indiana Medical College, from which, in the spring of 1875 (less than a year from his arrival in Indianapolis), he received the scarcely-earned degree of Doctor of Medicine. Though it had not at all been his intention to enter that profession, he thought that a certain amount of medical knowledge would enable him to teach Physiology better. The next year he gave a course of lectures on Comparative Anatomy in the Medical College. So much for the standards of medical education in Indiana in 1875. [48]

On 10 March 1875, Jordan was married in Peru, Massachusetts, to Susan Bowen whom he met at the first summer session of the Agassiz school on Penikese. After ten years of married life, she died in Bloomington, Indiana, on 15 November 1885, leaving three children. She was a woman at once gentle and enthusiastic, always hopeful, and of the type for which the word "beloved" is naturally employed. [49]

Late in 1875, at the end of one year as high school teacher in Indianapolis, Jordan found himself unexpectedly elected to the professorship of Biology in Northwestern Christian University. This school was, at the time, in the process of being moved from Indianapolis to Irvington, a suburb five miles distant and since included within the city of Indianapolis. Coincident with the move, the burdensome original name was changed to "Butler University" and later to Butler College.

With respect to Jordan's scientific work during the period from 1874 to 1876, he made large collections of birds in Wisconsin and Indiana and prepared a series of descriptions for his first real contribution to science: A Manual of Vertebrates of the Eastern United States, published in 1876. In the summer of 1876 and in the following years he conducted regional research on fish and other fauna. These studies were the basis for his growing reputation as an ichthyologist. [50]

The academic year of 1878-79 proved to be his last at Butler where faculty dissension over the religious affiliation of the professors led Jordan to resign on short notice in protest. He was then offered the professorship of Natural History (which meant zoology, geology, botany, and physiology) in Indiana University in Bloomington in the fall of 1879.

Almost immediately he was approached by the Fish Commission under the United States Census Bureau to take charge of an investigation of the marine industries on the entire west coast. Making arrangement for his collegiate work to be taken over temporarily by someone else, he entered upon the assignment in December 1879.

Having completed this important work, he returned to the University in the early fall of 1880. Thereafter he addressed the needs of the students in his Department of Natural History, while continuing his regional research to such good effect that on 1 January 1885 he was unanimously elected President of Indiana University. At that time the University contained 135 collegiate students, with about 150 in the preparatory department, which served as a high school for Bloomington. [51]

By 1891, Jordan had served as President of Indiana University for six years. Other noteworthy features of his career to date included the following. He discharged his duties as President of Indiana University so ably that, when offered the presidency of the University of Iowa in the spring of 1886, he was induced to decline the offer by the unanimous appeal of the Indiana Trustees. He married Miss Jessie Knight of Worcester, Massachusetts, on 10 August 1887. By this time he had personally visited every considerable river basin in the United States in connection with his highly-regarded studies of fish, and had received significant national recognition as an investigator, educator and academic executive.

It was at this juncture that Jordan met on Sunday morning 22 March 1891 with Senator and Mrs. Stanford. They offered him the presidency of Stanford University which he formally accepted the following day - fortunately for the future of Cooper Medical College and medical education in the West. [52] [53]


Opening of the University

Dr. Jordan retained his presidency of Indiana University until the June Commencement in 1891, and his salary as President of Stanford University did not begin until 20 May . Nevertheless, immediately upon receiving his Stanford appointment, he began an intensive search for faculty, a campaign unprecedented in scope at the time in American higher education. By the end of the summer he had engaged a faculty and staff of twenty-five: fifteen professors (including President Jordan); four non-resident professors; two assistant professors; one instructor; and three staff. [54]

Faculty of the new university began to arrive at the campus in June 1891. The town of Palo Alto was not yet established and only a dusty dirt road connected the Quadrangle of the University with the railroad tracks beyond which was the prospective town of Palo Alto then known as University Park. Living accommodations were virtually non-existent on the campus for faculty and their families. They had to seek out small-town hotels and boarding houses in Menlo Park and other nearby communities until, months later, small cottages were completed on campus. Meanwhile construction of university buildings and student dormitories continued at a hectic pace to meet the deadline of October first for opening ceremonies.

President Jordan was in his element. His infectious energy and good humor lifted the spirits of faculty colleagues who responded to the pioneering living conditions by setting to work with enthusiasm on the new curriculum they were soon to introduce. President Jordan was later to refer to them as "A handful of young idealists. . . We did not mind the primitive conditions of our material existence, and accepted without a murmur the penury of books and apparatus, for poetry was in the air we breathed, hope was in every heart, and the presiding spirit of Freedom prompted us to dare greatly." [55]

Senator and Mrs. Stanford spent the summer in their home on the campus, participating in all major decisions and immensely gratified by the remarkable progress of construction, and the inspiring, irresistible leadership of their new President.

Dr. Orrin Leslie Elliott, first Registrar of the University, was present on Opening Day: [56]

On the first day of October 1891 the breath of life was breathed into the fashioned clay. More than four hundred students appeared for registration on this opening day. The event of the occasion was the ceremony of dedication, which was held in the open court of the Inner Quadrangle. A stand for the speakers had been erected in front of the Spanish arch at the west end of the court, and the surrounding arches were profusely decorated with California's choicest flowers and shrubs. The western half of the court was filled with a great gathering of people from far and near. Here Mr. Stanford for the Founders, Judge Shafter for the Trustees, President Kellogg for the State University, and President Jordan gave appropriate expression to the feelings which the occasion called forth and to the aims and anticipations and hopes for the development of the institution for which such long and costly preparation had been made.

"For Mrs. Stanford and myself, " Mr. Stanford said, "this ceremony marks an epoch in our lives, for we see in part the realization of the hopes and efforts of years. . . You, students, are the most important factor in the university. It is for your benefit that it has been established. To you our hearts go out especially, and in each individual student we feel a parental interest. All that we can do for you is to place the opportunities within your reach. Remember that life is, above all, practical; that you are here to fit yourselves for a useful career; also, that learning should not only make you wise in the arts and sciences, but should fully develop your moral and religious natures."

It was for Dr. Jordan to speak directly of the task and ideals of the University. . ."It is the personal contact of young men and women with scholars and investigators which constitutes the life of the University. Ours is the youngest of the universities, but is heir to the wisdom of all the ages. . . We hope to give our students the priceless legacy of the educated man, the power of knowing what really is. Every influence which goes out from these halls should emphasize the value of truth. . . The University has its origin in the shadow of a great sorrow, and its purpose is the wish to satisfy for the coming generation the hunger and thirst after knowledge - that undying curiosity which is the best gift of God to man. The influence of the boy, to the nobility of whose short life the Leland Stanford Junior University is a tribute and a remembrance, will never be lost in our country. The Golden Age of California begins when its gold is used for purposes like this.. . . "

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