Letter from the Chair of the Board of Trustees

Challenges and Opportunities Ahead
Leslie P. Hume

Leslie P. Hume

Few would argue that the past year presented unprecedented difficulties for institutions throughout the world. It also presented opportunities for leadership, and as I review the year’s events and take stock, I find myself reflecting on the qualities of leadership.

One hundred and eighteen years ago, Leland Stanford challenged the pioneer class: “All that we can do for you is to place the opportunities within your reach; it rests upon you to grasp and improve them.” Today’s students and faculty understand that historical imperative. They are clear about the importance of their work and are focused on bringing their research to bear on the world’s problems. As President Hennessy noted in his opening letter, our task is to place the opportunities within their reach, to give them the tools they need to develop into tomorrow’s leaders.

Stanford has been fortunate in its leadership throughout its history, and that the university has emerged from an uncertain year a stronger and more agile institution is due in no small part to the vision and skill of Stanford’s current administration. Recognizing earlier than many of our peers the impact of a severely declining endowment, President Hennessy and his administrative team determined it was in the university’s best interests to address the situation promptly and boldly, and they brought the community into their decision-making process. They made a number of extraordinarily difficult decisions at what sometimes seemed like a lightning pace. Through their decisive actions they placed the university in a better position to move forward. This ability to adapt to the changing landscape, while remaining true to core values, will serve Stanford well in the years ahead.

The steadfastness of our alumni, parents and friends has also been key to the university’s resilience this year. Although giving was down at many institutions — including Stanford — in 2008-09, The Stanford Challenge passed the $4.3 billion milestone, a tribute to the commitment and loyalty of the university’s donors. To have reached this level of support in such a difficult year speaks both to the power of Stanford’s mission and aspiration and to the tremendous generosity of the tens of thousands who have provided support.

As we look to the year ahead we must remember that Stanford’s greatest assets, whatever the economic climate, are its exceptional faculty and students, talented administration and deeply committed alumni and friends. These are undiminished, as is the commitment of the Stanford community to the goals we share. Together we will work to ensure that Stanford University remains strong, grasping the opportunities within our reach to educate tomorrow’s leaders and to advance the boundaries of knowledge.

Leslie P. Hume
Stanford University Board of Trustees