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Stanford Report, April 5, 2000

'Freedom of scholarly inquiry is our greatest privilege'

This is the text of John Hennessy's remarks at Monday's announcement.

A little over eight years ago, Gerhard Casper, at the announcement of his selection as Stanford's ninth president, jested that he had been selected because of his ability to pronounce Stanford's motto, "The Winds of Freedom Blow," as it appears in German -- a feat that I shall not try to duplicate today.

I have always taken our motto as an invitation to free and open inquiry in the pursuit of teaching and research, and as an encouragement to be bold in seeking out new knowledge. In my own work this invitation has led me to pursue new avenues in my own research in computer architecture; to engage in technology transfer through a startup; to initiate a major overhaul of our curriculum in computer architecture at both the graduate and undergraduate levels; and to coalesce my thoughts about how to teach computer architecture into two coauthored texts.

The freedom of scholarly inquiry granted to members of the academic community is our greatest privilege; using this privilege boldly should be our objective.

Last night, I was reminded that we encourage this boldness of inquiry not only in our faculty, but also in our students. At about 9 p.m. Dana Mulhauser, a student reporter for the Stanford Daily, arrived at my home off campus to ask about rumors of an action by the Board of Trustees scheduled for today. Her arrival reminded me that the Winds of Freedom blow through all parts of Stanford.

For the past five and a half years, initially as chair of computer science, then as dean of engineering and most recently as provost, I have had the opportunity to work with an ever-widening circle of faculty, staff and student colleagues. This engagement with faculty, staff and students from across the university has been one of the most challenging and intellectually engaging tasks that I have undertaken at Stanford, and one that I have thoroughly enjoyed. Thus, when the presidential search committee called me to talk about my interest in helping to tackle the challenges facing Stanford, I responded enthusiastically.

The challenges are real -- especially the challenge of building our academic programs and continuing to attract the best faculty, staff and students given the high cost of living in the Bay Area. But more important, the new millennium brings for Stanford opportunities to take advantage of our many strengths. Let me mention three important opportunities before us.

First, the opportunity to build on the remarkable enhancements we have made to our undergraduate program through Stanford Introductory Studies. From freshman seminars to Sophomore College to the new Introduction to the Humanities, much has been accomplished, but there are possibilities to further improve the undergraduate experience. In thinking about the overall structure and direction of our undergraduate program, I offer a statement made by Leland Stanford, which characterizes my views as well:

"I attach great importance to general literature for the enlargement of the mind and for giving business capacity. I think I have noticed that technically educated women and men do not make the most successful businesspeople. The imagination needs to be cultivated and developed to assure success in life."

A second opportunity is to build on the breadth and depth of our excellence in science and engineering with programs like the Clark Center for Biomedical Engineering and Sciences.

A third opportunity before us is to strengthen and enhance the arts and humanities by building on the successes of the Presidential Chairs in the Humanities, the Presidential Lectures in the Arts and Humanities, and on the addition of the Cantor Center to the campus.

Pursuing these opportunities and making Stanford the best it can be is a task that will require the engagement of the entire Stanford community: faculty, students, staff, alumni and friends. I look forward to working with this community in pursuit of these opportunities, and I thank the search committee and the Board of Trustees for their confidence in asking me to play this critical role at this auspicious point in Stanford's history. SR