Shirley Brice Heath

The Stanford University


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The Birth Of The Stanford University

In 1876, Leland Stanford purchased 650 acres of Rancho San Francisquito with the intention of using it for a country home and later began the development of what would later become his famous Palo Alto Stock Farm.

He subsequently bought several adjoining properties totaling more than 8,000 acres and the small town which began to develop was given the name Palo Alto which in Spanish means 'tall tree' because of a giant California red which stood and still stands there and which would later became the university's symbol.

The Family's History

Leland Stanford was born and grew up in New York and was one of eight children. He attended Clinton Liberal Institute, in Clinton, New York and studied law at Cazenovia Seminary in Cazenovia, New York and later in Albany.

In 1852 following the loss of his law library and other property in a fire he moved west and like many other wealth entrepreneurs he made a fortune from investing in the railroads. He was one of "The Big Four" railroad magnates and became president of the Central Pacific Railroad company in 1861.

He was a leader of the Republican Party and became the eighth Governor of California in December 1861 and served until December 1863.

He also served for four years as Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Public Buildings and Grounds and for slightly more than one term in the United States Senate from 1885 until his death in 1893 at age 69.

The Founding Of The University

As a prelude to the actual founding of the university, Stanford visited Harvard where he was warmly received and although he was given much good advice on how to proceed he decided on innovations which were somewhat groundbreaking at that time. He decided from that outset that the university would be co-educationalist and non-denominational when most prestigious centers of learning were all-male and were nearly always associated with a religious organization.

The renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead who created New York's Central Park was engaged to design the physical plan of the university and the controversial and contentious design finally resulted in an group of quadrangles on an east-west axis and even to this day the university's architects attempt to respect the original innovative idea.

The Legacy

On May 28, 2008 California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced that Leland Stanford will be inducted into the California Hall of Fame and the ceremony will take place December 10 2000.