Tuesday, April 24, 2018|
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|A Harvard Story |
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|Rating: 3.83/5 (84 votes)
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A lady in a faded gingham dress and her husband, dressed in a homespun threadbare suit, stepped off the train in Boston, and walked timidly without an
appointment into the outer office of the President of Harvard University.
The secretary could tell in a moment that such backwoods, country hicks had no business at Harvard and probably didn't even deserve to be in
Cambridge. She frowned. "We want to see the president," the man said softly. "He'll be busy all day," the secretary snapped. "We'll wait," the lady
For hours, the secretary ignored them, hoping that the couple would finally become discouraged and go away. They didn't. And the secretary grew
frustrated and finally decided to disturb the president, even though it was a chore she always regretted to do. "Maybe if they just see you for a few
minutes, they'll leave," she told him. And he sighed in exasperation and nodded.
Someone of his importance obviously didn't have the time to spend with them, but he detested gingham dresses and homespun suits cluttering up his
outer office. The president, stern-faced with dignity, strutted toward the couple.
The lady told him, "We had a son that attended Harvard for one year. He loved Harvard. He was happy here. But about a year ago, he was accidentally
killed. And my husband and I would like to erect a memorial to him, somewhere on campus." The president wasn't touched; he was shocked.
"Madam," he said gruffly, "We can't put up a statue for every person who attended Harvard and died. If we did, this place would look like a
"Oh, no," the lady explained quickly, "We don't want to erect a statue. We thought we would like to give a building to Harvard.
The president rolled his eyes. He glanced at the gingham dress and homespun suit, then exclaimed, "A building! Do you have any earthly idea how much a
building costs? We have over seven and a half million dollars in the physical plant at Harvard." For a moment the lady was silent. The president was
pleased. He could get rid of them now.
And the lady turned to her husband and said quietly, "Is that all it costs to start a University? Why don't we just start our own?" Her husband
The president's face wilted in confusion and bewilderment.
And Mr. and Mrs. Leland Stanford walked away, traveling to Palo Alto, California, where they established the University that bears their name, a
memorial to a son that Harvard no longer cared about.
In actuality, Leland Jr. died of typhoid at the age of 16 in Florence, Italy; contracted while the family was traveling in Europe in 1884. When the
Stanfords returned to America, they did visit several universities in the East and did talk to President Eliot of Harvard about establishing a
university at Palo Alto, a large institution in San Francisco combining a lecture hall and a museum, or a technical school. They asked President Eliot
which of three would be more desirable and he replied 'a university.' They then asked how much the endowment should be, and President Eliot replied,
'not less than $5 million.' In answer, Mr. Stanford turned to his wife and said with a smile, "Well, Jane, we could manage that, couldn't we?"
The complete story can be found at Stanford History: The Beginning.
Sometimes first impressions are wrong. Someone might look like a chunk of gold, and quickly rust. Or we might turn away someone with drive, loyalty,
ambition, determination, etc.
We hear that what goes around, comes around. Just in case that might actually be true and in case you have ever felt under appreciated, then you might
consider taking advantage of the next opportunity to look a little deeper for the goodness in others.
Received from Thomas Ellsworth.