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Former Stanford President Donald Kennedy dies at 88 of COVID-19

Original post made on Apr 21, 2020

Former Stanford University President Donald Kennedy died at 88 years old of the coronavirus on Tuesday, university officials announced in a press release this afternoon.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, April 21, 2020, 4:39 PM

Comments (20)

Posted by Overhead
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 21, 2020 at 4:57 pm

[Portion removed. Please refrain from using this forum and this time to judge Kennedy's presidency of Stanford. Respect that his family and friends are grieving their loss.]

Posted by Palo Alto Grandmother
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 21, 2020 at 5:40 pm

I took several classes from Kennedy and they stand out as the ones I remember best from my years in Biology at Stanford. He was amazing!!

Posted by GaryB
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 21, 2020 at 5:59 pm

Our region and humanity itself need the technological base of which Stanford is a pillar. Kennedy helped build that up under a long and difficult tenure as president. His life had more positive impact than most could dream of and it's sad to see him go especially to Covid-19 of which Stanford is one of the key places fighting it. My father passed last year at a very old age. It was sad, but I still realize how much worse it would have been having to worry about him through this. Wish the family well.

Posted by Jennifer
a resident of another community
on Apr 21, 2020 at 7:19 pm

My condolences to the Kennedy family. Rest in Peace Mr. Kennedy.

Posted by Bill Glazier
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 21, 2020 at 7:46 pm

A great man. I remember many of his Commencement addresses - in my years often a reference to the wisdom of one of the Boston Celtics players who would double as a philosopher, and always the closing reminder that 'when you leave here, remember why you came'. I have often thought of that, and I remember very well why I came (and stayed) and I am thankful for his leadership that put Stanford on a great path.

Posted by PatZy
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 21, 2020 at 8:29 pm

Best teacher I ever had. A wonderful man.

Posted by What Will They Do Next
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 21, 2020 at 8:38 pm

He was 88 and a well respected man who lived a long and rewarding life. He fit the deomgraphic for those who succumb to COVID 19 and a myriad of other flu like viruses. It just may have been his time.

Posted by Stephen
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 21, 2020 at 10:04 pm

As I recall, at commencement he often cited Adlai Stevenson's great remark “Your days are short here; this is the last of your springs. And now in the serenity and quiet of this lovely place, touch the depths of truth, feel the hem of Heaven. You will go away with old, good friends. And don't forget when you leave why you came.” I was touched everytime when I heard it. From my experience, all after his time as Stanford's president, Don was a warm, friendly man and thoughtful and generous scholar.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Stanford
on Apr 21, 2020 at 11:02 pm

He lived a long and fruitful life, he was 88.


Posted by Heart
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 22, 2020 at 2:08 am

I do not think it had to be his time. I want to know why anyone is still getting infected around here. If anything maybe his last legacy should be our efforts to ensure this happens to no one else. My deepest condolences to his family.

Posted by Anneke
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 22, 2020 at 9:26 am

For Donald, an Irish blessing.

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

Posted by Anneke
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 22, 2020 at 9:32 am

For Robin, an Irish blessing.

May God give you…
For every storm, a rainbow,
For every tear, a smile,
For every care, a promise,
And a blessing in each trial.
For every problem life sends,
A faithful friend to share,
For every sigh, a sweet song,
And an answer for each prayer.

We love you.


Posted by Cam
a resident of Crescent Park

on Apr 22, 2020 at 11:21 am

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Posted by Ferdinand
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 22, 2020 at 12:30 pm

Warmest regards to his family on their loss. What an interesting, varied, humor-filled, values-driven, public service life he led. You are so lucky to have shared your lives with such a person. I only met him a couple times, but even during his decline in health at Sunrise he was smiling, and his eyes were still filled with a kindness the world so needs. May we all absorb some of his essence, and remember him when birds sing outside our windows.

Posted by Ray
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 22, 2020 at 1:35 pm

Rest in Peace, Don. You were a wonderful man and it was an honor to have known you and benefited from your friendship and wisdom.

Posted by Patrick Siegman
a resident of another community
on Apr 22, 2020 at 7:38 pm

One of President Kennedy's other notable legacies is that Stanford's "no new motor vehicle commute trips" agreement with Santa Clara County was adopted under his leadership. That agreement, adopted as part of Stanford's 1989 General Use Permit, allowed Stanford to add over 2,000,000 square feet of new academic buildings and more than 2000 faculty and student housing units, but also committed the University to achieving a goal of no increase in peak hour motor vehicle commute trips to campus.

The story I recall hearing from my colleagues at Stanford, when I worked there in the mid-90s, is that when Palo Alto, the County, and Stanford were negotiating the permit, Palo Alto's then-chief transportation official, Marvin Overway, said something like, "The issue about Stanford's growth that really bothers people is traffic, so why don't we just limit traffic?" President Kennedy's background as a biologist and dedicated environmentalist must have made him a ready partner, when Mr. Overway proposed the idea.

The agreement set the stage for Stanford's big investments in helping people commute by walking, bicycling, carpooling and transit. Instead of just pouring millions of dollars into more garages, Stanford expanded the Marguerite shuttle from a commute-hour service into a real transit system. The Clean Air Cash program – which pays commuters cash if they walk, bike, take transit or carpool – was added. Over subsequent years, many other programs to help commuters leave their cars at home (or skip owning one) were created.

After a decade, Stanford had met the "no new trips" goal (and saved a good deal of land and money by reducing parking demand). The approach seemed to work for people in Palo Alto and the County as well, so the no new trips goal was renewed in subsequent permits.

I don't have commute statistics reaching as far back as the 1980s at my fingertips, but the figures I do have available show that the drive-alone commute rate for University employees fell from 72% in 2003 to just 49% in 2018.

Back in 1989, agreeing to achieve no new motor vehicle commute trips, in an area where the vast majority of people drove to work alone, was a bold move. Quite a few doubted it could be done. But that decision did work out. I think both Stanford and its neighbors are better off as a result.

Today, which happens to be Earth Day, seems like a good day to recall this part of President Kennedy's legacy. By agreeing to take Stanford down a path less traveled, he left a fine legacy: a more beautiful, more sustainable campus, and cleaner air and less traffic for our region as a whole.

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2020 at 10:43 am

Posted by What Will They Do Next, a resident of Old Palo Alto

>> He fit the deomgraphic for those who succumb to COVID 19 and a myriad of other flu like viruses. It just may have been his time.

Thanks. You probably think it may be my time, too. But, I disagree with you.

Donald Kennedy had a great legacy, and, I'm going to agree with Patrick Siegman above on a particular important point. I think Kennedy was the first to really think through how Stanford could evolve with a more consistent transportation plan. Prior to Kennedy, administrators did projects without a real thought regarding where things were going in 10 or 20 years, and, if the transportation numbers really added up. (Let's just say that it has been awfully difficult to stick to that consistently.)

Posted by Wayne King
a resident of Los Altos
on Apr 23, 2020 at 8:54 pm

Yes, he loved his students. Many years ago Stanford had a star women's volleyball player by the name of Kim Oden. My wife and I attended many of her games and when Kim made a killing spike, the student section would stand and put their arms over their heads in a ( ) for Oden.

Well, one night we saw Donald Kennedy walking in the stands and taking a seat in the student section to watch the match. Yes, Kim Oden immediately made a kill and the students stood up making the O. Then Mr. Kennedy looked around and sheepishly stood up and slowly put his arms above his head. The students had no idea he was there and after that he was the first to stand and celebrate Kim Oden's spikes!

It was very fun and warming to see him enjoy college life with the students.

Posted by Scotty
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 24, 2020 at 11:02 am

A good, good man.

Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 24, 2020 at 11:33 am

The Mercury-News published an article today about the facility where Donald Kennedy died. "10 dead at Redwood City assisted living center, while thousands test positive at facilities across the state" Web Link

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