L.A. Stories

July/August 1997

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L.A. Stories

Rod Searcey

It sounded like a boondoggle. Fly to Los Angeles for the day, schmooze with alums over bowtie pasta with grilled chicken, listen to comments from some of the University's most notable professors and graduates --and jet back to the Bay Area in time to put my daughter to bed. My only official job duty at the 64th Annual Stanford Conference in Los Angeles was to stow the "Register Here" placards under the airplane seat in front of me. It was the least I could do.

The conference clearly provided a good excuse to get out of the office for a day; wasn't that part of the reason to go? As it turned out, though, it also proved something of a windfall for the magazine. Three stories in this issue have their roots in presentations made that day last March. Law Professor Kathleen Sullivan, who is profiled in the Stanford Today section, cautioned against fiddling with the federal campaign laws. One of the nation's most prolific--and most quotable--constitutional scholars, Sullivan argued that the cures proposed by reformers run afoul of the First Amendment's protection of political speech. Later, Roger Corman, '47, was the featured speaker in a panel on moviemaking. A producer and director with more than 300 pictures to his credit, Corman has become a Hollywood giant by staying outside the powerful studio system. He's the centerpiece in a package of stories on Stanford's independent filmmakers, which begins on page 60.

University President Gerhard Casper supplied material for the third story. In a speech that he began by vowing not to give an "NC 17 -rated talk," Casper analyzed the lawsuit filed by Paula Jones against Bill Clinton. A respected legal scholar, Casper focused not on the sordid allegations but on how the case challenges the doctrine of separation of powers. The speech was based on work Casper did for his new book, Separating Power: Essays on the Founding Period, which depicts the framers of the Constitution struggling over how to divide authority among the three branches of government. A few weeks after the conference, I spoke with President Casper about the book; that interview begins on page 80.

More than 300 alums showed up for the five-hour conference, which was sponsored by the Alumni Association. But only a few of us participated in an event that was not on the official schedule. As we returned to San Francisco, the pilot announced that he had been cajoled into putting the Stanford vs. University of Oklahoma men's NCAA tournament basketball game on Channel 8 of the in-flight audio system. It seems that Casper, a fellow passenger also on his way back to campus, had paid a successful visit to the cockpit before takeoff. But with just two minutes left in the game, we landed----and lost our audio. Casper hustled us through the terminal and into the United Airlines Red Carpet Club, where he flashed his membership card so that we could watch the final seconds on a TV over the bar. (Stanford won, 80-67, but would lose a heartbreaker six days later to be eliminated from the tournament.)

I'm not usually lucky enough to trip over three story ideas (and then tune into Stanford basketball at 35,000 feet) in a single day. It's much more common for us to find articles by following up on suggestions from readers and colleagues and by monitoring the trends, triumphs and tribulations on campus. And, of course, we pore over the Class Notes columns produced by our volunteer correspondents, looking for alums whose exploits and accomplishments might have broad appeal.

When we're generating stories, it also helps if we look at the world through Cardinal-colored glasses. Examining national issues through a Stanford prism is a natural complement to our focus on the University and its alums. This month, we take on two such subjects. Jock Friedly, '90, explores how universities have become dependent on federal funds--and what Stanford is doing to reduce that dependence. The University last year was awarded some $566 million of the $30 billion Washington allocated for higher education.

In the same vein, Theresa Johnston, '83, offers a new perspective on women struggling to achieve a balance between work and family. Through interviews with dozens of Stanford alumnae and faculty experts, Terry found that the doing-it-all Supermom is no longer a realistic model--if it ever was. An increasing number of high- powered women are putting their careers on hold in order to be so-called stay-at-home moms.

As we track down stories, we're committed to enlightening and entertaining you about various facets of the extended Stanford community. So committed, in fact, that I plan to attend more alumni conferences. Isn't it time we scheduled one in Paris?

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