John L. Hennessy to resign as Stanford president

Longtime academic plans to return to teaching and research

After more than 15 years as president of Stanford University, John L. Hennessy announced June 11 that he plans to step down. Hennessy informed both the Board of Trustees and the Faculty Senate of his decision to depart his post in summer 2016, after serving in major academic leadership roles at Stanford for more than two decades, the university's news service announced.

"The time has come to return to what brought me to Stanford -- teaching and research. Maintaining and improving this university is the work of many people, and I am deeply appreciative of the dedication of so many colleagues to Stanford and its students," Hennessy said to the Faculty Senate, which gave him a prolonged standing ovation.

Since assuming the presidency in October 2000, Hennessy placed an academic emphasis on interdisciplinary teaching and research that is also reflected in a physical transformation of the campus, all designed to heighten opportunities for intellectual collaboration between faculty and students through programs that are emulated by universities around the world.

"John Hennessy has modeled what it means to be a visionary higher education leader for the 21st century," said Steven A. Denning, chair of the Board of Trustees. "He has guided Stanford to be an exemplar of what a modern university must aspire to be."

LaDoris Cordell, former vice provost for campus relations and special counselor to Hennessy from 2001 through 2009, said his leadership elevated the university's international image -- and its endowment.

"He boosted the image of Stanford as a research, tech and science hub. That really took flight under his leadership," she said.

Hennessy's engineering background also helped position Stanford well during the dotcom boom. Now, technology courses have become the most-sought at Stanford, she added.

Hennessy, a computer scientist who founded technology companies, advocated as president for constructive relationships between universities and industry in order to more rapidly bring academic discoveries to the public, according to the Stanford News Service.

"He championed an entrepreneurial spirit built around collaboration and innovation across disciplines, a spirit that pervades Stanford, Silicon Valley and beyond," Denning said.

Hennessy also built unparalleled support among alumni and supporters, including launching and completing the $6.2 billion Stanford Challenge campaign, the most successful fundraising effort completed to date in American higher education.

"He was a prolific fundraiser, raising money for Stanford's endowment. That was just huge," Cordell said.

Hennessy joined Stanford's faculty in 1977 as an assistant professor of electrical engineering. He rose through the academic ranks to full professorship in 1986 and was the inaugural Willard R. and Inez Kerr Bell Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from 1987 to 2004. From 1983 to 1993, Hennessy was director of the Computer Systems Laboratory, a research and teaching center operated by the departments of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science that fosters research in computer systems design.

A pioneer in computer architecture, Hennessy in 1981 drew together researchers to focus on a computer architecture known as RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computing), a technology that has revolutionized the computer industry by increasing performance while reducing costs. In addition to his role in the basic research, Hennessy helped transfer this technology to industry. In 1984, he cofounded MIPS Computer Systems, which designed microprocessors. His later research was in parallel processing.

He served as chair of Stanford's Department of Computer Science from 1994 to 1996 and, in 1996, was named dean of the School of Engineering. As dean, he launched a five-year plan that laid the groundwork for new activities in bioengineering and biomedical engineering. In 1999, he was named provost, the university's chief academic and financial officer. In October 2000, he was inaugurated as Stanford University's 10th president.

Under Hennessy's presidency, Stanford has undertaken major new academic initiatives to address important global challenges of this century, the university's press release stated. Interdisciplinary teaching and research has expanded dramatically with the creation of new cross-school, collaborative programs in human health, international affairs, environmental science and other areas.

The academic growth of the campus has been supported by its physical transformation, preserving the iconic architecture of the original campus while renewing infrastructure to meet contemporary academic needs. The Science and Engineering Quad, the Knight Management Center for the Graduate School of Business, new facilities for Stanford Law School and the School of Medicine, a new Stanford Stadium and multiple new student residences have been completed since 2000.

Hennessy did not specify his future plans but has expressed interest in ongoing engagement in teaching, research and higher education.

Among numerous honors, Hennessy is a recipient of a 2005 Founders Award from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the 2012 IEEE Medal of Honor, IEEE's highest award. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Association for Computing Machinery, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

The Stanford Board of Trustees will appoint a presidential search committee this summer, to be chaired by former board chair Isaac Stein. Committee members will be drawn from the board, the faculty and the Stanford community.

The committee will begin work in September and conduct a national and international search. "The group will consult broadly with the community as the search unfolds," Denning said.

Stanford Provost John Etchemendy has agreed to stay on for up to one year with Hennessy's successor but he is not a candidate for the presidency. Hennessy and Denning praised Etchemendy for his partnership in leading the university for the past 15 years.

— Palo Alto Weekly staff/Stanford News Service

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12 people like this
Posted by JS
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 11, 2015 at 11:35 pm

Congratulations to President Hennesey for a job well done. Leading a major University for a long period with many, many successes is no small achievement. Congratulations also to Provost Etchemendy for his outstanding contributions and leadership.

14 people like this
Posted by Wow!
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 12, 2015 at 9:41 am

I'm not sure why the Palo Alto Weekly takes credit for writing this story since the bulk of it is copied word for word from the story issued by Stanford's news service. Even though your article credits the source, you also lift entire sections and then give "The Palo Alto Weekly Staff" credit for writing it. It's really pretty shoddy journalism. Anyone who has taken Jounalism 101 knows this one of the biggest NO-NO's a newspaper can commit.

Here's Stanford's version:Web Link

14 people like this
Posted by not a real newspaper
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 12, 2015 at 10:01 am

Nice catch, wow. The weekly deletes postings when others do it. Isn't this called plagarism in the real world? Someone should report thia to the organization that bestows all the awards that the weekly lives to crow about

3 people like this
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Jun 12, 2015 at 10:39 am

The credits mention Stanford News Service as the source.

1 person likes this
Posted by Wow!
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 12, 2015 at 12:52 pm

@Chris The Weekly staff added Stanford News Service only after it was noted that they copied whole chunks of the story from the News Service story. Once they were caught it was an easy way to fix it, but they were trying to pawn it off as their own work. I'm not even sure why they credit The Weekly Staff as they changed very little of the original news story sent out by Stanford. Why not give full credit to Stanford News Service? This is really shoddy journalism. I would think that given how significant Stanford is to Palo Alto, they would be able to cobble together their own story. They didn't even post a story until five hours after Stanford announced the news and there is nothing in that story that is original journalism. Could there at least be some original sourcing with reaction from people who are involved with Stanford?

1 person likes this
Posted by it's called a placed story!
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 12, 2015 at 1:24 pm

Some posters here are apparently unfamiliar with PR. Stanford has a major PR operation. They LIKE it when they place a story to their specifications somewhere. Word for word running of an excerpt of a news release is FINE! PR agents and in house PR personnel at many establishments attempt to feed stories to the media. Some news media just run what they are fed - it isn't that unusual. That counts as a win for the PR agent or staffer. They keep track.
It is also true new media do better service to their readers - the public - when they provide journalism rather than placed stories. They should go beyond the news release or fed info. Never mind that the naive public, particularly young people, believe anything written on the internet including equating anything from self appointed experts/bloggers as if it were journalism written according to journalistic standards...Best to read everything with a grain of salt.

6 people like this
Posted by Wow!
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 12, 2015 at 1:34 pm

@It's called a placed story

I am well aware of placed stories and PR. I've been in the business for 25 years. This was not a placed story. This was a story that the Palo Alto Weekly tried to pawn off as original, breaking news journalism. Placed stories are not breaking news stories, which the story about John Hennessy's resignation was. Placed stories are marketing tools, highlighting good works that a company or organization does. This was the Palo Alto Weekly taking someone else's work and making it appear as their own. Even now, several hours after it was pointed out that it was written by Stanford News Service, they are still giving the Weekly Staff the lead credit for writing it.

7 people like this
Posted by Gethin
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 12, 2015 at 2:39 pm

Gethin is a registered user.

While posters are debating the tangential issue of plagiarism, how about we also stick to the real topic, an excellent dean has chosen to go back into the trenches. Congratulations to Hennessy for all he has accomplished.

Posted by Ricky
a resident of South of Midtown

on Jun 12, 2015 at 5:02 pm

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2 people like this
Posted by Bunyip
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 13, 2015 at 12:09 am

A big fan of Stanford, however I think it is beyond time they grew their schools of health beyond just medicine. Look at top univieristy medical centers, Johns Hopkins, UCSF, etc. strong schools of Heath. Afraid Stanford is lagging behind. The affordable care act calls for a greater role of these professional groups, not less . Be good if Hennesey in his final months really made strides to drag Stanford into the new age of health care by developing schools of allied Heath professions.

1 person likes this
Posted by Susi
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 13, 2015 at 2:57 am

Congratulation to Stanford. Corporations are people and so now is Stanford.

Like this comment
Posted by James Hall
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 14, 2015 at 2:03 pm

Just as a humorous comment - we've often made fun of his photographs in the alumni magazine - with one hand always in his pocket, and sometimes made much taller and thinner by the photoshop people who favor form over content occasionally.
But my first thought reading this story was:
1) did some prankish students secretly inundate his pocket with contact glue and it now becomes necessary to deal with pieces of cloth glued to his hand OR
2) was this habit of his, seemingly counting the change in his pocket endlessly fingering the coins - really to remind all of us to reconsider alumni gifts to the growing skyline of the Farm?
Second thoughts lead to a generalized fear that the new Prez might be condie rice - head for the border.

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