Former Stanford University president Richard Lyman dies | June 1, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - June 1, 2012

Former Stanford University president Richard Lyman dies

Tenure spanned tumultuous period of student protest over war, weapons research, civil rights

Richard Lyman, whose tenure as provost and later president of Stanford University spanned a tumultuous period of student protest over the Vietnam War, weapons research and civil rights, died of congestive heart failure Sunday, May 27, at Channing House in Palo Alto. He was 88.

A historian who first arrived at Stanford in 1958, Lyman was provost from 1967 to 1970 and served as the university's seventh president from 1970 to 1980.

In a 200-page memoir published in 2009, he gave a behind-the-scenes look at university decisions to ban classified research on campus; to increase the admission of black students and hire more black faculty; to summon police to quell violent anti-war protests; and to fire H. Bruce Franklin, a tenured professor of English, for allegedly inciting students to disobey a police order during a 1971 anti-war protest.

An opponent of the Vietnam War, Lyman nonetheless was frustrated with what he viewed as Stanford's tolerant, even sympathetic approach to students involved in anti-war protests.

As provost, he persuaded Stanford President Kenneth Pitzer to summon riot police in 1969 after students broke into Encina Hall, then the main administration building, breaking windows, rifling through desks and file cabinets and seizing files.

It was the first time Stanford called police to campus. The Encina break-in followed a nine-day student occupation of the university's Applied Electronics Laboratory in a peaceful protest over classified and war-related research on campus.

When Lyman became president in 1970, he instituted a policy that student protesters would not be allowed to occupy a building overnight.

Lyman angered some alumni in 1972 when he recommended abandoning the "Indian," Stanford's mascot, following talks with Native American students and staff who called the image demeaning and degrading. The student senate concurred. Some alumni were so incensed they withheld financial contributions.

In 2002, the Stanford Powwow commemorated the 30th anniversary of the decision.

"I'm very pleased that someone thinks well of that decision," Lyman told Stanford Report at the time. "I've gotten so much flak over the years for it."

Lyman's time as provost also saw the university's first co-ed dorm.

One evening in 1970, when Lyman and his family were hosting a crowded reception in their campus home, anti-war protesters threw a Coke bottle filled with red paint through the back kitchen window. Later that night, rocks were hurled through the windows of the upstairs sleeping porch. No one was hurt in the incidents.

In 1976, Lyman came under fire from some conservative alumni for not intervening after students invited activist Angela Davis to speak on campus.

"The reason I am unwilling, despite the anger and unhappiness of many, and threats of financial retaliation from some, to attempt to intervene in this matter is that I have an absolute duty to respect and do whatever I can to protect the right of free speech, and the willingness to listen to unpopular or even dangerous ideas, which lie at the core of any good university's being," Lyman wrote in a letter to an irate donor.

In 1972, Lyman launched the $300 million Campaign for Stanford, then the largest fundraising campaign in the history of higher education. The successful five-year drive raised money for the endowment, buildings, endowed chairs and financial aid.

By comparison, the university announced this past February it had raised $6.2 billion in the five-year fundraising campaign known as the Stanford Challenge.

Lyman left Stanford in 1980 to become president of the Rockefeller Foundation in New York City, a post he held for eight years.

He returned in 1988 to develop a forum for interdisciplinary research on international issues, now known as the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. He served as director of the center until he retired in 1991.

"Dick Lyman was a man of great strength, integrity, common sense and good humor," said Stanford President John Hennessy.

"It was a privilege to know him, and I am deeply saddened by his death. His impact on Stanford was profound. He guided the university through some of the most turbulent years in its history, and under his leadership, Stanford not only survived, it flourished.

"He had an unswerving belief in academic freedom and universities, and he inspired that commitment in others. We are very fortunate — and certainly the better — for having known him and for having his courageous, committed leadership and service to Stanford."

In addition to his wife, Jing, Lyman is survived by daughters Jennifer P. Lyman of Washington, D.C., and the Rev. Holly Antolini of Cambridge, Mass.; sons Christopher of Searsmont, Maine, and Timothy of Hartford, Conn.; and four grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, the Lyman family requests that memorial donations be made in his name to the American Friends Service Committee or the Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford.

— Palo Alto Weekly staff


Like this comment
Posted by Arch Conservative
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 28, 2012 at 5:09 pm

Dr Wallace Sterling was the finest University President that Stanford has ever had and Dr Kenneth Pitzer was far down the list. And it was under Dr Sterling's tenure that Timm Williams first came to Stanford to give his support to it's athletic teams.

Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on May 28, 2012 at 7:28 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Dick Lyman was a scholar and a gentleman - a superb combination of skills and ability.

Like this comment
Posted by moi
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 28, 2012 at 8:40 pm

This is such a loss to the Channing House community.

My sympathy to Jing Lyman and family and friends.