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...

A Sweeping Liberal Arts Education

By Marcia Cohn Growdon, ’67 PhD’76 I particularly like the question, how did you find your way into your field.  There is a slightly worn saying, life is what happens while you are making other plans.  A child of Sputnik, I, like so many others, began to focus on the sciences in high school.  I loved biology, which in the early 1960s was still botany and zoology.  I came to Stanford as a biology major.  But I was also really eager to go to Stanford-in-France.  My father, class of ’25, only made one suggestion about my education, which was that to prepare for Europe, I should take the art history survey courses – the same ones he had taken forty years before!  So I did that at the beginning of my Sophomore year.  I was stunned at how the sweep of visual history appealed to me, and I was equally thrilled at how well I did in the classes.  There was a dramatic contrast between how natural the visual arts felt, compared to how I was struggling in organic chemistry and the brand new human biology series.  A three-quarter break, with almost eight months in Europe made it clear to me that art history was my future.  Three degrees later, I did, suddenly, have to pause again.  After helping my husband start a retail computer business, I welcomed an opportunity to be part of the institution that became the Nevada Museum of Art.  As a curator, as a director, I had come home.  I later taught the “pyramids to Picasso” survey courses at the University of Nevada, Reno.  Throughout...

The Science and Art

by Mercedes Gail Gutierrez I started as a scientist and graduated a scientist and an artist. After sophomore quarters in Stanford in France, Group VIII, on the advice of my advisor, I switched majors from Pre-Med to Studio Art. The switch from the sciences to the Humanities had begun in France where I had to prove theories personally than on laboratory observation, chemical laws and proven formulae. Studio Art may sound like fun and play, but making art is agonizingly challenging. It utilizes both sides of my brain, scientific and aesthetic. It is a full- time job, filled with painful moments and days perfecting techniques, planning and some days looking and questioning, but when it is right it is glorious. Before I was twenty-seven, I spent a year on a Fulbright-Hays fellowship in Madrid, completed a Masters in Sculpture at U. C. Berkeley in 1971, and showed in Bay Area museums and galleries. I have continued making and showing art in a series of solo shows all over the United States and the world. Opportunities just open up. After an intense creative period a hiatus occurs when I have used up what I need to say. There may be years of smaller works, projects, teaching, and learning to maintain a visual edge, until the next burst of creative focus occurs usually in a new medium or genre. I stayed married to my Stanford beau, raised three outstanding children, taught Western Civilization and World History at local colleges and at Nankai University in Tianjin, China, and volunteered doing social action programs in the communities where I lived. After 20 years as the Arts Program Administrator for the statewide multi-disciplinary Fine Arts program in adult prisons, Arts-in-Corrections, California Department of Corrections...

“Sure, You Are Ready.”

by Mercedes Gail Gutierrez Sure, you are prepared for life with a Stanford degree, credibility, proof of excellence, STANFORD seal of authenticity, SU branding. You are certain you are prepared but Life will throw you entirely different problems, challenges and opportunities that you NEVER imagined.  You can do it, just stay loose in your knees, bounce on the balls of your feet, be ready to turn, pivot, go. This is the best thing I learned at Stanford, “Be ready to turn and take it on.” How? I returned to the Farm from Stanford in France, Group VIII. My pre-med advisor recommended I switch majors. What, change my direction after years of science and math? Why not? I became a Studio Art major in the middle of my junior year and intensively studied art. Way behind other Studio Art majors I had a lot of hand-eye technique to learn but I did and graduated with Honors.  While at the post office changing my address, I bump into my printmaking professor, he suggests I apply for a Fulbright-Hays fellowship, at large. I spend a Fulbright year in Madrid. Returning to California, my plans to marry fall apart, so I end up earning a Masters in Sculpture from U.C. Berkeley and showing my work in Bay Areas museums, colleges and galleries. Married, a child and I am in Southern Illinois, I am elected to the married graduate student council and initiate student gardens, softball teams, childcare program, new playgrounds and receive an offer from the university to be an assistant dean of graduate affairs. This life was not what I planned. My son was three so I create a Saturday art program at the nursery school site in exchange for...

The Stanford Card

by Helen Gebhardt Stanford has been an extremely important part of my life, from the many friendships I made to volunteer and work relationships later on.  Obtaining my first job epitomizes its importance.   Graduating in 1948, I applied for a job as secretary at a large local company.  Back then, women were somewhat limited in their options.  The job I was offered–and turned down–was as a stenographer in their accounting department.  I explained that I believed my Stanford education qualified me for something better.  The next day I was offered, and accepted, the job as secretary to a top executive. While raising my family in Salt Lake City, I engaged in volunteer activities.  Returning to Boise, just as my children were ready for college, led me to return to the “World of Work.”  I, again, believe my Stanford credentials and volunteer experiences were vital to the job hunt.  My two sons became professionals (many years of college) and I was happy to contribute to their successes! My roles in these later working years were as Public Relations Officer for the Boise Schools, and then a move to the State Department of Education in the same capacity.  There I was able to chair the Teacher in Space project for our State (every state participated).  We had two of the top ten finalists, with Barbara Morgan (another Stanford graduate), the back-up to Christa MacAuliffe, who ultimately traveled into...

Never Give Up

by Martha Horst When I came to Stanford in 1985, I thought I was going to be a chemical engineer.  Within five minutes of arriving on campus, however, I found the music building.  It was home for me.  It was where I was meant to be. I switched majors my sophomore year and ended up completing a double major in Values, Technology, Science and Society and Music.  Through the support of my professors, I went to graduate school and earned a Ph.D. in music theory and composition.  There were not a lot of women composers then and there are not a lot now.   I never let that bother me. Currently, I am a professor of music theory and composition at Illinois State University.  It took me a long time to realize my dream of obtaining a tenure track job in academics; I never gave up on my dream.  It sounds trite, but it is an important piece of advice for any young person. My job involves teaching young composers and music majors and writing music.  Currently, I live in Helsinki, Finland with my husband and two young children.  We are both on sabbatical.  I am balancing my time between writing pieces for various music groups and taking care of my small children.  It has been a wonderful experience – something that I did not even dream of doing when I was an undergraduate at Stanford. When I graduated Stanford, I dreamed about what I wanted to do with my life, but had no idea how I would do it.  I followed that dream and never gave up.  Although at...