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Hennessy cites successes, fund threats

Stanford President John Hennessy, in his annual state of the university speech Thursday afternoon, noted the highlights of the last year on campus, including the recent opening of an energy-efficient science building.

A new medical school will be built, as well a concert hall, and the university is partnering with the Monterey Bay Aquarium and its research institute in an ambitious effort to save the oceans, he said.

But Hennessy also warned that the university is facing new uncertainties in government funding that supports much of its research and its graduate students.

"Recently, we have seen increased volatility and decreases in federal funding, and our ability to support our graduate students, especially in the sciences and engineering, may be increasingly at risk," Hennessy said. Vice Provost Patty Gumport will be asked to come up with potential solutions to the funding uncertainty, he added.

Hennessy noted that Stanford had a record number of students applying for admission at 25,298 and fewer than 10 percent -- a record low -- were offered admission. A record high of 72 percent of the accepted students indicated they will attend Stanford.

Of the incoming freshmen, 18 percent will be the first person in their families to attend a four-year college or university, he said.

The university also announced, in February, that students from families earning less than $100,000 a year will no longer have to pay tuition and students from families earning less than $60,000 a year will not have to pay room and board, either. Current tuition is $34,800 a year for undergraduates, with combined tuition and room and board being $45,606 a year.

Stanford also has a new program to educate teachers for schools in high-need school districts, he said. As part of the program, 25 students are enrolled each year and make a commitment to teach for three years in a high-need school district after they leave Stanford.

Hennessy also noted the announcement earlier this year that the university will join with the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute to form the Center for Ocean Solutions, a new effort that will go beyond research inquiry to find ways to protect the world's oceans. The new center is being funded with the support of a $25 million grant from Packard Foundation.

And while plans are underway to build a new Stanford Hospital in the coming years, ground has already been broken on the Li Ka Shing Center of Learning and Knowledge at the Stanford School of Medicine.

Another new project will be a 900-seat concert hall. "When the hall is completed in the next few years Stanford will finally have a first-class musical performance venue -- a mere 120 years after its opening," Hennessy said.

Hennessy said Stanford continues to generate almost astounding success in fund-raising from its alumni.

"Last year, Stanford received gifts from 69,350 alumni and friends, including almost 35 percent of our undergraduate alumni," Hennessy said. The current fund-raising campaign, called The Stanford Challenge, began in October 2006 and has received pledges for more than $3.5 billion since it began, he said.

Read the speech

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