Happy Birthday, STANFORD

The Stanford Magazine was introduced by founding editor Della Van Heyst in 1973, accompanied by a letter from Ralph Davidson, who also served as president of the Alumni Association at a time when the organization was independent from the University. Davidson wrote: “The Stanford Magazine will display a strikingly beautiful campus; it will feature stimulating articles; it will offer glimpses of research and other endeavors that have an impact on the quality of our lives; it will look over the shoulders of today’s students; it will also seek to capture the enduring spirit and atmosphere of a unique institution.” Contributors to the first issue included no less a writer than Wallace Stegner, who wrote an observant essay on American culture. We still aim to do what Davidson described and deliver what Stegner delivered—sparkling writing and thinking that informs, educates, entertains and provokes.

Originally a quarterly, the magazine went to a bimonthly schedule and became simply Stanford in the late 1980s. And that’s not all that’s changed. Poring through the old issues, we found a Hewlett-Packard advertisement touting $395 calculators (1974) and Time magazine introducing a new section devoted to . . . wait for it . . . computers (1982).

To honor the magazine’s first 40 years, we will roll out celebratory stories and compile archived pieces for you over the coming year. To start, we’ve assembled a couple dozen of our favorite covers in a special gallery, with brief descriptions of stories that were memorable, influential or just plain great. You’ll find a young assistant professor of political science named Condoleezza Rice (1985); a controversial story about gays on campus (1991); premature infants fighting for life; iconoclasts and icons; charming views of the campus past; and so much more.

Who knew turning 40 could be so much fun?

Kevin Cool is the executive editor of Stanford.