Hennessy welcomes Stanford freshmen to whirlwind week

Students urged to emulate Benjamin Franklin and 'catch opportunities'

Welcoming more than 1,700 new students to Stanford University this week, President John Hennessy told them it was their responsibility to "catch opportunities."

Dressed in academic regalia in a convocation ceremony in the quad, Hennessy urged them to emulate Benjamin Franklin's qualities of intellectual curiosity and passion for learning.

"Indeed, Franklin's entire life was an intellectual journey, just as we hope the next few years of your lives will be," he told 1,709 freshmen and four dozen transfer students, who took up residence on campus Tuesday.

The new students come from all 50 states and from 52 countries. The 1,709 freshmen are the ones who said "yes" to Stanford out of the 2,427 students admitted from an initial applicant pool of 34,348.

Thirty-nine percent of Stanford's class of 2015 graduated from high schools in California, and 16 percent of the freshmen are the first in their families to attend a four-year college. Nearly half receive financial aid from the university.

Caucasians comprise 30.6 percent of the class; Asian-Americans 22.4 percent; Hispanics 15.4 percent; African-American students 10.6 percent; Native-Americans and Hawaiians 4.7 percent, with the remainder unknown, the university said.

A quarter of the entering class members said they are primarily interested in natural sciences, followed by engineering (21 percent); pre-law and pre-medicine (18 percent); humanities (17 percent); social sciences (12 percent); earth sciences (2 percent) and "undecided" (5 percent).

Ninety-two percent of the Class of 2015 ranked in the top 10 percent of their high school graduating classes, and 87.5 percent earned high school GPAs of 3.8 or higher.

Among 47 transfer students who also arrived Tuesday, 21 graduated from community colleges and nine are U.S. military veterans.

A 44-page "major events" calendar for new students began with the welcome from Hennessy Tuesday afternoon. The week has been packed with placement testing, library tours, advisor meetings, faculty research presentations, religious services, cultural group welcomes and parties.

On Thursday, new students were invited to a "first lecture" by celebrated author and Medical School Professor Abraham Verghese. The topic was "the purpose of a liberal education and how you will become more than your major."

Orientation wraps up Sunday with a discussion moderated by Political Science Professor Scott Sagan with the authors of three books freshmen were assigned to read over the summer: "March" by Geraldine Brooks; "The Violence of Peace" by Stephen L. Carter and "One Bullet Away" by Nathaniel Fick.

Sagan said he chose the books because he wants students to understand current global conflicts and ethical issues in war.

"I think war is too important for young people at a major university to ignore," he has said.

In a June letter to freshmen, Sagan said, "Students at an American university should not forget that the United States is currently engaged in wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, and 15 additional civil wars are raging elsewhere, and that U.S. troops are deployed in many U.N. peacekeeping missions.

"Our peaceful intellectual oasis exists in a world of conflict."

Noting that reasonable people often disagree, Sagan said he wants students "to wrestle with the ethical dilemmas involved in decisions about war and peace."

In Tuesday's welcoming ceremony, Hennessy told an apocryphal story about a conversation Benjamin Franklin had in a Philadelphia tavern with a man who said the words in the Declaration of Independence "don't mean nothing at all."

The man asked, "Where's all that happiness the document says it guarantees us?"

Franklin was said to have replied, sympathetically: "My friend, the Declaration of Independence only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself."

"And so it is with your time here at Stanford," Hennessy told the freshmen. "You will have many opportunities here but it is incumbent on each of our students to catch them."

Regular classes for Stanford undergraduates begin on Monday.

Chris Kenrick

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Like this comment
Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 20, 2011 at 10:56 am

Must be rough starting school so late in September.

Like this comment
Posted by AMRW
a resident of another community
on Sep 20, 2011 at 10:59 am

That's funny-I was at Target in Mtn View yesterday and thought "Look at all these college kids, Stanford must be starting". Of course, at UC Berkeley, we took BART to get to Target. I doubt any of these kids took public transportation. =)

Like this comment
Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 20, 2011 at 11:02 am

Jane Lathrop Stanford was quoted as saying that Stanford was established for the children of California . This year only 39% are from California, and it is 'said' that there is a quota on how many from Palo Alto are allowed in per class. There should be a class in 'understanding American football" so that the game attendance numbers go up - something Harbaugh complained about. And many foreign countries like China and the Middle East pay 100% for master's and Ph.D. grad students, many of whom also get subsidies from Stanford. California students need a "Dream Act" of their own.

Like this comment
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Sep 20, 2011 at 11:07 am


Stanford run the Marguerite Shopping Express to Target and Wal-Mart,
and people do ride it.

Most freshman do not have cars, but generally parents bring their kids to school so they would have access to cars the first day.

Like this comment
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Sep 20, 2011 at 11:09 am

Rice University runs sessions for international students hosted by the football staff and team to teach them about American football.
Stanford could start that program.

Like this comment
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Sep 20, 2011 at 11:12 am


Most students at Stanford are on scholarship, and if your parents earn less than $100K, it is essentially a full ride.

As noted in the article, 16% of the freshman are the first in their families to attend a 4-year college.

Like this comment
Posted by Matt
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 20, 2011 at 11:12 am


I guarantee they took the Marguerite, Stanford's shuttle that is free to the public and partially paid for by those students' tuition. Not as convenient as the BART, but the price is right.


Like this comment
Posted by Hearsay
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 20, 2011 at 1:19 pm

"it is 'said' that there is a quota on how many from Palo Alto are allowed in per class"

If that's the case then it's a pretty soft quota. The number of Gunn and Paly grads at Stanford is exceptionally large.

Like this comment
Posted by Data Guy
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 20, 2011 at 3:13 pm

Gunn is one of the top feeders into Stanford.
Stanford admits 20+ Gunn kids each year.
Here's the data:

Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 20, 2011 at 3:31 pm

Gunn boundaries include Stanford faculty homes which means that Gunn has many faculty students who will have an easier time of getting accepted.

Sometimes, data can't be trusted. Stanford accepts faculty kids regardless of where they live in the area which makes it look like they are favoring local schools.

Look to see how many of the 20+ Gunn students are faculty kids.

Like this comment
Posted by Jennifer
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 20, 2011 at 4:48 pm

Stanford students do take public transportation to Target. There is a Stanford shuttle that runs on weekends to the San Antonio shopping center from campus - to help the many students who do not own cars.

Freshmen are not allowed to bring cards to Stanford, but many of these were with their parents today.

Like this comment
Posted by heard
a resident of Monroe Park
on Sep 20, 2011 at 4:55 pm

i have heard only 2-3 got on merits.

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 20, 2011 at 5:38 pm

If you drive on campus, be extra careful! More people who refuse to obey traffic laws, don't wear helmets & love to cycle while on their phones sans helmet, while breaking the laws - this happens every Sept.

It's great to have the free shuttle - that's what it's for - to provide safe public transpo. I hope the students make good use of it & stay safe.

Like this comment
Posted by Hearsay
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 20, 2011 at 6:49 pm

"Look to see how many of the 20+ Gunn students are faculty kids."

Usually about half. Which still leaves a significant number accepted/enrolled at Stanford. Again, this is just to counter the statement that there's a "Palo Alto kid quota" for Stanford, which is demonstrably false.

Like this comment
Posted by Koa
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 20, 2011 at 9:49 pm

9 US military veterans out of a class of 1709, how diverse! Congrats to my friend Nick for threading the needle on that one!

Like this comment
Posted by been there
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 21, 2011 at 9:24 am

Did any of you miss the NYT article a couple of Sundays ago? Retailers staging parties for students and providing the transportation to their store? Frosh orientation at Target, with the UNC Chapel Hill mascot and the Target mascot standing side by side? Amusing, but nice Stanford doesn't do it--

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 21, 2011 at 9:33 am

I am sure Target sells Stanford gear a lot cheaper than the Stanford student store.

Anyway, is this article about the students or where they shop and how they get there?

I expect that this week is one of the best for local motels and restaurants since the new students tend to come with families who stay for at least one night and spend lots of money on college life necessities. Shame that all the sales tax goes to Mountain View at Target and WalMart and not Palo Alto. Stanford Shopping Centre costs too much to fix a dorm room for most students.

Like this comment
Posted by MV Resident
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 22, 2011 at 9:20 am


Presumably, many local communities got some money. IKEA in East Palo Alto probably rang up some decent sales. Most of the local hotels are actually in Palo Alto, so the city gets hotel taxes; also a lot of meals were probably consumed in Palo Alto restaurants.

Like this comment
Posted by older Gunn grad
a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 22, 2011 at 12:59 pm

Back in the day (my day), most Gunn grads who went to Stanford were faculty kids or legacy.

I don't know the current figures, but I think there are a tremendous number of apps to Stanford each yr from Gunn AND PALY, so taking 20 from Gunn, while significant, may be not that many when you considered how many applied -- figures anyone? HOw many applied vs. how many accepted and any idea which were faculty or legacy admits?
I thought I read (last year) in the Stanford Daily that 30% of frosh class had legacy boosts.

C'mon, Stanford is an elite private school. While some are on scholarship, there are mostly super elite, super advantaged rich students. Try looking at a public school for comparison of student bodies...just sayin'

Like this comment
Posted by Data Guy
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 22, 2011 at 9:13 pm

@older Gunn grad:

According to the following data points, about Gunn applicants had a 20-25% acceptance rate at Stanford in 2006-2009, far higher than the overall <10% acceptance rate.

Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by silly
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 22, 2011 at 10:06 pm

My daughter got into Stanford, not a legacy, I went to UC, she is just very smart. I met a lot of the kids in her dorm. A healthy percentage were not priviledged, just smart. And like it was said above freshmen are not allowed cars, they ride the shuttle, the VTA, the caltrain and walk. My daughter would occasionaly ride her bike home and borrow the family car, so they could go places the public transport did not go. I think you folks dont really know much about the kids that are going there.

Like this comment
Posted by Doug
a resident of another community
on Sep 23, 2011 at 4:10 pm

Like silly above posted, I have a freshman at Stanford. Small urban high school, non legacy. How did he do it. Near perfect GPA, greater than 2300 SAT, 36 ACT score. Uhh...just kind of earned it in the classroom. Generic comments about the rich privileged kids is truly unjust to the majority of Stanford students. At the end of the day 92% were in the top ten percent of their respective high school classes. They are flat out smart kids. Black, White, Asian, rich or poor. They are pretty much all good kids. I am proud of my son and the other 1755 freshman.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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