As part of Stanford\u2019s 125<sup>th<\/sup> anniversary celebrations in 2016, two distinguished members of Stanford\u2019s history department gave public reflections on the university\u2019s founding, its values and how its past might help to chart its future.\r\n\r\n<a href="history.stanford.edu\/people\/james-t-campbell" target="_blank">James T. Campbell<\/a>, the Edgar E. Robinson Professor in United States History, and <a href="history.stanford.edu\/people\/david-m-kennedy" target="_blank">David M. Kennedy<\/a>, the Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History, Emeritus, spoke of Stanford\u2019s founding as part of the larger urge toward progress that sped the development of the American West. They looked at Stanford as a manifestation of that progress \u2013 spatial, social and intellectual.\r\n\r\nThe event, \u201cCathedrals in the Wheatfields: Parables from Stanford\u2019s Founding,\u201d is recorded on a <a href="http:\/\/itunes.apple.com\/us\/podcast\/cathedrals-in-wheatfields\/id385664533%253Fi=1000377591679&mt=2" target="_blank">free iTunes podcast<\/a> from the Stanford Historical Society, the event co-sponsors.\r\n\r\nWhile the outline of Stanford\u2019s story is known to many \u2013 a boy who died, a grieving family, a fortune diverted to public good \u2013 Campbell and Kennedy sought to give it resonance.\r\n\r\nKennedy compared it to a cross-country journey in 1879 by author Robert Louis Stevenson, in part over Gov. Leland Stanford\u2019s recently completed railroad. As he traveled, Stevenson wrote in his diary, he passed through a landscape of ethnic diversity, wondrous beauty and robust resources. Moving through the railroad cars, watching the men at work, he marveled at the feats of engineering that made his trip possible.\r\n\r\nAll of the features that captured Stevenson\u2019s imagination also distinguish Gov. Stanford\u2019s other chief legacy, the university that bears his son\u2019s name.\r\n\r\nKennedy pointed out that this is no coincidence \u2013 that Gov. Stanford saw himself as a facilitator of material, social and even moral progress.\r\n\r\nAs the mogul mused at the university\u2019s opening day, Oct. 1, 1891, \u201cThe high condition of civilization to which man may attain in the future it is almost impossible for us to now appreciate. ... A few years ago, within the memory of a majority of the adults here present... over 4 millions of human beings were held in slavery by mere might.\u201d\r\n\r\n[caption id="attachment_3414" align="alignright" width="720"]<img class="size-full wp-image-3414" src="http:\/\/125.stanford.edu\/wp-content\/uploads\/2016\/11\/kennedy.jpg" alt="David Kennedy" width="720" height="576" \/> David M. Kennedy[\/caption]\r\n\r\nBoth as Civil War-era governor of California and as a force behind the transcontinental rail link, Kennedy observed, Leland Stanford helped to keep the state, its gold and its other resources in the Union. Later, as he welcomed his new university's first class, he \u201cexplicitly wedded these themes of railroad-building and emancipation.\r\n\r\n\u201cSo if Leland Stanford\u2019s railroad was the engine that pulled the West into the United States, and the nation into the crowning stages of its Industrial Revolution, then in the century that followed, Leland Stanford\u2019s university would be a lead locomotive pulling the West \u2013 and the rest of the world \u2013 into the modern, post-industrial era.\u201d\r\n\r\nFrom the circumstances of the university\u2019s founding also stem what Campbell called \u201cits relentless focus on the new, on innovation.\u201d\r\n\r\nHe noted that the Stanford story \u201chas dark corners\u201d: the \u201cflagrant corruption\u201d of railroad operations, the railroad\u2019s exploitation of Chinese workers, the attraction of some early Stanford patrons and faculty to now-discredited beliefs such as eugenics or communication via s\u00e9ance with the dead.\r\n\r\n\u201cThere are issues contained here that are animating students on campus today,\u201d Campbell said. \u201cIf our purpose is to foster conversation across generations, then we should start by introducing ourselves.\u201d\r\n\r\nIn the next 125 years, both historians said, Stanford will resemble the university it is now \u2013 if it remembers the ideals and the challenges set forth in its first 125 years.\r\n\r\n[caption id="attachment_3573" align="alignleft" width="1024"]<img class="wp-image-3573 size-large" src="http:\/\/125.stanford.edu\/wp-content\/uploads\/2016\/11\/cwvDm9asA_Lw9YsGTQNy8vXDFzY-1-1024x819.jpeg" alt="James T. Campbell, the Edgar E. Robinson Professor of History, explores ways in which the circumstances of Stanford's birth guide the university in its second century and beyond at Cemex Auditorium on Oct. 6." width="1024" height="819" \/> James T. Campbell[\/caption]\r\n\r\n\u201cWhat would our founders think if given an opportunity to wander our campus today? What would they make of us?\u201d Campbell asked.\r\n\r\n\u201cI suspect that their first response would be something akin to astonishment. ... But I would like to believe \u2013 I do believe \u2013\u00a0that they would find much that they recognized and, broadly speaking, approved.\r\n\r\n\u201cLeland and Jane Stanford sought to create a university that would equip students for direct usefulness and personal success and they certainly got it.\r\n\r\n\u201cI hope we do not lose sight of what is marvelous about this place. It is irreverent. It welcomes interesting ideas and does not over-trouble much over where they came from. It was and is a university of the world.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe founders, said Campbell, would be surprised at Stanford\u2019s present-day diversity. In their day, though more inclusive than most colleges, \u201cit was a predominantly white institution.\r\n\r\nToday, he said, \u201cour best estimates are that about 42 percent of undergraduate students today are white Americans, a figure identical to the proportion of whites in the population of California.\r\n\r\n\u201c\u2018We will make the children of California our children,\u2019 Leland is alleged to have told his grieving wife, and they did.\u201d\r\n\r\nLooking backward and forward, Campbell said, one would see both similarities and differences.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe students who follow us will inhabit a different universe of possibility than ours. They will not necessarily value the things that we value. They will ask unsettling questions, and disdain things that we consider precious.\r\n\r\n\u201cThey will, in short, behave like Stanford students.\u201d\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nRead the text of <a href="historicalsociety.stanford.edu\/sites\/default\/files\/stanford125thbydavidmkennedy.pdf" target="_blank">David Kennedy\u2019s talk<\/a> and of <a href="http:\/\/historicalsociety.stanford.edu\/sites\/default\/files\/stanford125byjamestcampbell.pdf" target="_blank">James Campbell\u2019s talk<\/a>.\r\n\r\nListen to the <a href="http:\/\/itunes.apple.com\/us\/podcast\/cathedrals-in-wheatfields\/id385664533%253Fi=1000377591679&mt=2" target="_blank">iTunes podcast<\/a> of their remarks.\r\n\r\nRead <a href="http:\/\/sdr.stanford.edu\/uploads\/qm\/411\/yg\/8385\/qm411yg8385\/content\/sc0033a_s6_b07_f07.pdf" target="_blank">Gov. Stanford\u2019s typescript of his opening-day address<\/a>, Oct. 1, 1891.