A Tradition of Service

Stanford seeks to educate socially responsible leaders.

November/December 2005

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A Tradition of Service

Photo: Glenn Matsumura

Earlier this year, Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor announced she would step down from the Supreme Court. And in September, Chief Justice William Rehnquist died after a battle with thyroid cancer. For the Stanford community, the accomplishments of Rehnquist, ’48, MA ’48, JD ’52, and O’Connor, ’50, JD ’52, underscore the role that our university has traditionally played in developing leaders who contribute through public service.

Rehnquist earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science from Stanford and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He received a master’s degree in government from Harvard before returning to Stanford Law School. He was sworn in as a Supreme Court justice in January 1972, and served as associate justice for nearly 15 years before becoming chief justice in 1986.

O’Connor earned her bachelor’s degree in economics, graduating magna cum laude, before moving on to Stanford Law School. In 1981, she became the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court. Over the course of her service on the court, she became a powerful force in formulating judicial opinions on some of the most contentious political issues of the last quarter century.

In their decades of service, justices Rehnquist and O’Connor made enormous contributions to the public good. But service to the community is nothing unusual for Stanford. When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast this summer, individuals and groups coalesced across campus to explore how Stanford could help. We quickly devised a program to accept more than 30 undergraduate and graduate students this fall. Rather than accept tuition, Stanford and many other universities participating in these guest-student programs are asking that tuition be paid to the students’ home institutions while those schools work to restart their own programs. During the freshman welcome I met several of the parents of these students, including one father, a Stanford alumnus, who was dropping off his son at the undergraduate dorm where he had lived a few decades earlier.

Many others are pitching in. The Medical School participated in a coordinated national effort to respond to the medical and health issues caused by the disaster. We expect several dozen employees will volunteer under a University-funded program that provides staff paid leave for relief work. The Stanford Alumni Association offered an online clearinghouse for alumni relief efforts. A group of students, faculty and staff, under the auspices of the Black Community Services Center, coordinated a campaign to raise money and gather supplies for hurricane victims. The Stanford Linear Accelerator Center and the athletics department, among others, held fund-raising events. The Stanford Management Company organized a swim-a-thon, with its leader—a Stanford alum—accepting a challenge gift for this good cause, which was earned by swimming his laps in Cal gear!

These efforts should come as no surprise. Stanford students and faculty have long been dedicated to community service, and Stanford has been consistently recognized for the breadth of its service opportunities and for the wide-scale participation of students in those opportunities. The Haas Center for Public Service has been a national leader in developing service programs and new approaches to learning through community service.

During the 2005-2006 school year, the Haas Center and my office are sponsoring Stanford’s participation in a national pilot project, the Call to Serve Campaign. It’s a collaborative project with schools and career services across campus to promote student awareness and interest in government service.

Comparable efforts to engage students in contributing to the public good have been launched at the graduate level as well. For example, at the Business School, the center for social innovation aims to dissolve boundaries and promote best practices between the nonprofit, for-profit and government sectors. The center builds on the GSB’s public management program, which encourages MBA students to apply management principles to issues of public concern. About 15 percent of our MBA students graduate with the certificate in public management after focusing on electives such as social entrepreneurship, international development, applied ethics, corporate social responsibility and environmental entrepreneurship. At the Law School, the Stanford Community Law Clinic, operated in partnership with the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County, helps prepare Stanford law students for careers as public interest attorneys by serving individuals and communities in need through legal representation, advice and education.

Programs like these are increasingly important as the societal challenges our students face become more complex and global in scope. I believe we provide our graduates with both the skills and sense of social responsibility necessary to make significant contributions to our nation and the world in the coming decades.

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