Searching for the Next President of Stanford: A Conversation with Kathy Chou

by Erica Toews When John Hennessy announced that he would step down as the president of Stanford after sixteen years, Kathy Chou and eighteen others on the Presidential Search Committee were tasked with selecting the eleventh president of the university. The Committee ultimately chose Marc Tessier-Lavigne, president of The Rockefeller University and former Stanford faculty member, to become Hennessy’s successor. Kathy called serving on the Committee “a once-in-a-lifetime experience” and emphasized “how rare of an opportunity it is and also how rare to have someone from Cap and Gown be able to do that.” The amount of time and work required of the members amounted to “a full time job”. Fortunately, Kathy had just stepped down as senior vice president of sales strategy and operations at Informatica to take a role at VMware and hadn’t started her new job yet. The Committee consisted of eleven men and eight women. There were eight Stanford Trustees, seven faculty members, one staff member, one undergraduate, one graduate student, and Kathy representing the alumni. They met almost every weekend for five months, from September through February. To gather initial data, the Committee conducted informational interviews with over 130 people at high-level educational institutions, including Stanford faculty members and presidents of other universities. They asked “three very simple questions: one, what was their understanding of Stanford’s challenges and opportunities? Two, what were the characteristics of what they would look for in the next president of Stanford? Three, who do they suggest?” Next, they engaged “a search firm, but not in the traditional way at all. In fact, we really were the search firm, the...

Take Your Cookies When They’re Passed: A conversation with Jean Coblentz

At age ninety, Jean is writing a book called Take Your Cookies When They’re Passed. Cookies, or opportunities, come unexpectedly, not necessarily when you’re looking for them. She encourages all of us to “keep your mind open, and prepare yourself for taking advantage of opportunities. Study your surroundings, and you will create positive change that will help you attain current and long-term plans for the things that you feel are important for your own talents and those of others.” Jean started writing the book one year ago in a memoir writing class for elders. One of her classmates asked who gave her the first cookie that changed her life, and Jean replied with a story. In the mid-1970’s, Jean was Chairman of the Tally Ho Horse Show, a program to raise money for children at Stanford Children’s Hospital. When the fundraiser was over, Jean wrote thank you notes to all who had participated, including to Dick Bennett. A few days later, Dick called Jean and asked if she had ever considered working for him at Stanford. She told him that she had not, whereupon he invited her to work with him in the Office of Development. Years later, when Jean asked why he chose her, he said, “We have about 75 people who run programs here, and yours is the only time that anybody has written me a thank you note.” That marked the beginning of over two decades during which Jean worked as a development officer at Stanford. She says, “Everything came out of that thank you note. That’s how I got started, and I’m still there. I don’t currently go to the office, and I don’t get a check, but that’s not important...

Tri-state Regional Event

by Erica Toews On Sunday, December 6, 2015, ten women came together to celebrate the 110th anniversary of Cap and Gown at the Russian Tea Room in Manhattan. Erica Toews (’10), Naomi Waltman (‘85), and Alice Bolocan (‘54) planned the event. Erica and Naomi are on the Cap and Gown Alumnae Board, and Alice attended the Cap and Gown event in New York last year and expressed interest in helping to plan this year’s event. In attendance were Mary Carroll Scott (’66), Lisa Goldman Forgang (’87), Nicole Cushman (’04), May Chiang (’05), Katie Lingras (’06), Molly Decker (’08), and Victoria Harman (’09). The venue was exquisite: we entered through antique revolving doors and sat in a room full of modernist glass sculpture, mirrors, and chandeliers. We enjoyed tea, sandwiches, and desserts on silver platters as we shared about ourselves and reminisced about our time at...

The Elixir of Youth

Elizabeth Up de Graff, ‘55, is brimming with creative energy and vitality, and not just for someone who is 81. The Cap and Gown alum just wrote a book called Timeless Energy and Magnetic Vitality: How to Look, Feel and Be Young Longer. In her book, she explains how to connect with the subtle energy of color, light, and sound for the purpose of improving one’s health, focus, and balance. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Elizabeth and enjoyed hearing about her journey toward vitality and finding herself. Elizabeth was born and raised in Los Angeles. She attended Marlborough School for Girls and excelled academically. She wanted to be a stage actress, so she went to UCLA because it had the best drama department, but she quickly learned that acting was not what she wanted to pursue. She changed her major to Political Science and transferred to Stanford. Elizabeth’s favorite memory of Stanford was being outside in the springtime. It was so beautiful that she took swimming, golf, tennis, and modern dance—in addition to a full academic load—to maximize her time outdoors. “Stanford taught me that all you have to do is have an idea and go for it,” Elizabeth explained. “Stanford showed me that there is a freedom of communication. It also taught me that, in life, if you can be creative or not creative, choose being creative.” After graduation, Elizabeth took a summer course at the University of Geneva in Switzerland to study French language and culture. She returned to the US and worked at the Stanford office in downtown Los Angeles, which specialized in public...

Cap and Gown in New York City

On Thursday, November 6, a crisp autumn evening in New York, seven Cap and Gown Alumnae from across generations gathered at a bar in Chelsea called Black Door. In attendance were Aimee Berg (’87), Alice Bolocan (’54), Ariana Koblitz (’12), Erica Toews (’10), Joslyn Massengale (’08), Katie Lingras (’06), and Nancy Truitt (’62). We shared drinks and conversation across several hours. Most of us were meeting for the first time. It was so nice to come together in a new place and reminisce about our days at Stanford. I felt inspired and excited by everyone’s accomplishments, professional and personal, and the life journeys we’ve been on since college. I hope this is the first of many Cap and Gown events in New...