Professor emeritus of biology;
University President, 1980-1992
If you are the president, you're kidding people if you claim real faculty status. But thankfully you can give some guest lectures, and in the spring quarter during the early to mid-'80s I got to teach part of the human biology core. I don't know what my students thought, but it was wonderful for me to sense the curiosity and enthusiasm of students in a program I had helped start 15 or so years earlier.
Dean of admissions, 1969-1984
To me, Stanford in the '80s was the Lake Lag version of Lake Wobegon: a place where all the students were good-looking, strong and above average, and where faculty, administrators and students alike had the uncommon knack for taking what they did seriously without taking themselves too seriously. Western style, it was a place of understated excellence. I enjoyed the Stanford Daily cartoonists' take on how I really made admission decisions, worried about flubbing my lines in Gaieties, shared in the collective commiseration following the Play in the Cal game, and most of all, treasured my good luck in daily crossing paths with everyone on the Farm.
Professor emeritus of philosophy
In the 1980s, my wife and I were resident fellows in Soto, and Kennell Jackson was the RF in Branner. Our RAs arranged a number of debates between us. My favorite was: Resolved: the catfish is God's noblest creature. I took the affimative; Kennell the negative. With his characteristic energy, Kennell did a lot of research, calling catfish farms to find out just how they are raised and harvested these days, all of which he found quite disgusting. I mainly argued that they were easy to catch and told jokes. Kennell arranged for a Cajun restaurant from San Francisco to serve a catfish dinner to all the Branner and Soto students in the Branner dining room. Great fun.
Professor emeritus of psychology
In my Mind Control course, a new exercise that I developed was being deviant for a day. We started in class with deviant dress—I taught in pajamas or in full drag, and one student came naked with a bag over his head. But TA Rose McDermott, '84, MA '88, MA '90, PhD '91, led her section to "moon at noon" in White Plaza. [The display of butts] made the Daily and I got in trouble with the dean.
Professor emerita of English
Quite a few years back when Rod Searcey had just graduated from Stanford, he got a job as the receptionist/secretary in the English department. One day early in his time in that job (though all things considered it may have been late), I came into his office and was immediately struck, literally, by a soft object ricocheting off the wall. Rod had erected a basket opposite his desk and was practicing his jump shot with a pouf ball. The department's dignity never quite recovered.
Professor emeritus of human biology
During my Human Sexuality lecture on artificial insemination, I referred to a sperm bank in Southern California that specialized in samples from highly intelligent donors, including Nobel laureates. At the end of the class, a student approached me with a question. "These Nobel laureates," he wanted to know, "how do they get the sperm out of them?" Was there some sort of machine? I looked at him and said, "Why would they need a machine?" He looked incredulous. With a suggestive gesture of the hand, he asked, "You mean . . . ?" I shook my head affirmatively. "I'll be damned," he said, and walked away.
Professor of psychology
Occasionally I would ask a student in my large statistics class to work a problem on the stage (in those days we used chalk and a blackboard!), having rehearsed the solution with the student a day or two earlier. The class would politely cheer the student afterwards, and I would try to stretch out this energy for the rest of the lecture and maybe into the next.
On one occasion, the student was a popular running back named Mike Dotterer, '83. When Mike finished his solution, he faced the class with arms outstretched and exclaimed, "Well, if I can do this, all of you can!" The class erupted in cheers and laughter, thus creating a renewable source of energy for quite a few lectures!
Associate professor of art and art history and of classics
More than they would expect, Stanford students are our finest educators. It is from them that I learned (and continue to learn) how to teach. No comment from their instructor ever ignited a more animated discussion than the blunt remarks of Jason Palumbis, '92, about the Egyptians, and the fiery reply of Janine Jones, '91. When Naomi Wolf's The Beauty Myth was first published, David Walker, '96, JD '00, a varsity football player, responded with "The Male Beauty Myth," a courageous exploration of the anxieties of being a man in archaic Greece. As a junior in 2004, Vivian Wang proposed that the Greeks address the issue of the Elgin Marbles by augmenting their collection in Athens with plaster casts of the originals in London. That idea was realized with the opening of the new Acropolis Museum in June 2009. Anders Jones, '09, provided an understanding of equitation, ancient and modern, that has transformed the way we look at the horsemen on the Parthenon frieze. The ability of Cory Booker, '91, MA '92, to excel on the field and in the classroom, while serving Stanford and enriching the lives of everyone around him, remains an inspiration.
Arthur Barnes, DMA '65
Professor emeritus (performance) of music
How "All Right Now" came into being: Geordie Lawry, '71, former drum major, decided to invent a new school spirit song and convinced the band staff that the new rock-out single "All Right Now," which was the most popular output of the rock group Free, was the "chart" I should arrange for the LSJUMB. Later, Scott Stanford, '92, MS '98, extended the song by adding the Victory Mix. And this is the version we all know now. The big mystery for me is how the All Right Now JUMP got incorporated. No one seems to know, but maybe someone out there does!
Professor emeritus of sociology
A former student ran up to me at a Founding Grant Society luncheon, asking "Aren't you Sandy Dornbusch?" I confessed. She said that she had taken two courses from me, and that they had changed her life. As the balloon of conceit swelled in my brain, it was abruptly punctured when she added, "But you know what? I can't remember a word you said."
Professor of history
When we started the program in feminist studies in the early 1980s, some administrators doubted the legitimacy of the subject, but students flocked to our interdisciplinary courses. At the same time, I faced an uphill tenure battle because my research and teaching focused on women. I still feel grateful to the many students who came to my support during that drawn-out tenure case. Not only did they affirm my value as a teacher but they also insisted to the University that women's history mattered.
James Adams, MS '59, PhD '62
Professor emeritus of industrial engineering and of mechanical engineering
I used to use the well-known nine-dot puzzle to introduce the idea of conceptual blocks to classes. I always mentioned a brilliant solution I had received in 1974 from a 10-year-old girl named Becky Buechel, who sent me a letter pointing out that it was possible to go through the nine dots with only one line if one had a "very fat writing apparatice." Imagine my surprise, on the opening day of my creativity course about 25 years ago, when a woman in the class walked up to me afterward and said "Hi. I'm Becky Buechel ['85]." Proves that brilliant people go to Stanford.
Professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences
The first presentation of Sleep and Dreams was winter quarter 1971. To my utter amazement, approximately 600 undergraduates registered and no classroom of that size was available. My friend Davie Napier, the dean of the chapel, allowed me to teach Sleep and Dreams in Memorial Church. I delivered only one lecture from the pulpit. It seemed a bit blasphemous since I am not a preacher.
After discovering the first dog afflicted with narcolepsy in 1973, we developed a colony of around 60 canine narcoleptics. Every year from the '80s and into the '90s, two or three of our canine narcoleptics visited the class. They were spectacularly reliable in displaying the attack of cataplexy (REM paralysis intruding into the waking state). We still have one dog that comes to class every year.
Professor of history
I don't recall what was happening at the time of the photo, but Rod must have spied me outside Cypress Hall D, where the King Papers Project moved from Meyer Library in 1989. I'm still director and we're still in those "temporary" buildings, although the Papers Project is now part of the King Research and Education Institute. The nearby bicycles remind me that I had one that was stolen. I often think of getting a replacement.
William Durham, ’71
Professor of anthropology
I’ll never forget the day I was lecturing in the human biology core in the ’80s, when two young men dressed in three-piece suits walked into the middle of class singing “Happy Birthday” and bearing a birthday cake thick with frosting. As excitement rippled through the class, the young men walked over to a female student and put the birthday cake in her lap. Just as everyone, maybe even me, began to say, “Ahh, isn’t that sweet,” the woman looked down at the cake and the bearer smooshed it all over her face! We all shared in her embarrassment.
Professor of applied physics
You learn some interesting things when you teach undergraduates. My favorite was the comment of an undergraduate who after his oral final exam in a course in science for nonscientists said, “I hadn’t appreciated that you guys have personalities.” Oh well, not what was expected but a good lesson nonetheless.
Henry Breitrose, PhD ’66
Professor emeritus of communication
The ’80s were a wonderful time for teaching about movies. Videocassette titles were becoming plentiful, players were getting cheaper, and Stanford had established a good video collection in Meyer Library. The courses were structured to be serious and demanding, and the students who thought that a film course would be an easy four units fled after the first class meeting. The ones who stayed were terrific. Bright, interesting and ambitious. Quite a few are working in the film industry today.
Professor emeritus of philosophy
Undergraduates at Stanford are a special breed. Much more relaxed and casual than their eastern counterparts, but just as intelligent and competitive. I remember above all their smiling polite corrections of errors of fact or logic I would make. They have learned from me, but I have learned just as much from them.
Gilbert Masters, PhD ’66
Professor emeritus (teaching) of civil and environmental engineering
I imagine quite a few of you took my CE 170 environment course 25 years ago, when enrollment passed the 500 mark. I continue to run into you in my travels and the usual comment I get is something like, “Hey, I took your course . . . can’t remember what it was . . . but I do remember it being the only 8 a.m. course I ever actually attended.”
Professor emeritus of chemistry
When I came to Stanford after teaching at an excellent state university, UNC-Chapel Hill, I realized that at Stanford there were even more superb undergraduates. After attending my chemistry lectures, several Stanford undergrads joined my research program. Some have become faculty members and industrial scientists, and others physicians. Prominent examples are; Kira Weissman, ’95, Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellow, Cambridge University; Brent Iverson, ’82, professor of chemistry, University of Texas-Austin; Eric Moore, ’79, MS ’80, research associate, INEOS Technologies; Robert Ivy, ’83, orthopedic surgeon, University of Tennessee. I fondly look back at those times when these clever people were in my research group.
Professor emeritus of history
Several students in my course on European intellectual history said that their lives had been changed by reading Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain.
Professor of English
I’m about to start my last year of teaching here before I retire, and what I’m thinking about and remembering is what a great job it is to be a professor at Stanford and how amazingly fast the time goes when you’re in a vocation you love. But that makes me muse on how things change, often for the better, and if you don’t pay attention and remember you miss the fabulous saga—the big epic movie—that life, especially life around a university, can be. When I started professing here (it seems like only a few years ago, but it was 1963!) there were no women and no ethnic minorities of any kind on the English department faculty, and the one Jew was a man who’d converted to Protestantism! JFK was still alive and President. Also nothing stays the same in your scholarly fields of interest. For example, I now regularly teach a course on the films of the great American filmmaker Woody Allen, who in his long career has made 35 feature-length movies—all worth seeing and at least 20 of them terrific. Yet when I began here, Allen was a new stand-up comic who’d never even written for, acted in, or worked on a movie.
I’ve had some lovely moments and honors as a professor, but I think an odd personal defeat best brings home the ineluctable passage of time, the absurd trick of history, and the wacky wonder of life at Stanford—my life anyway. In the mid-1960s a prominent autumn custom featured a silly popularity contest for professors: Students in those days voted for one of their teachers to become something called “The Stanford Red Hot Prof.” The winner, besides good publicity, got the “honor” of leading the rooting section at Big Game in the give-’em-the-Axe cheer. People in my classes put me up for Red Hot Professor, and being young, liberal, mouthy, in love with the books I was teaching, and cocky-cute in that hippie dawn, I was told—and I thought—I had a great chance to win. Oh boy! Confirmation as a red-hot teacher: an ego boost and, if not fortune, at least a little fame for 15 minutes! But—whine, whine, sob, sob—I didn’t win! I lost by four votes to some octogenarian scholar. And, humiliating to me when I first heard the news, he turned out to be a fellow at the Hoover Institution, that reputed right-wing den of iniquity that we hotties saw as pro-Vietnam War, anti-”greening of America,” and the institutionalized enemy of peace, democracy and flower power. But then I checked out the identity of the man who beat me. His name was Alexander Kerensky. Fifty years before he won the election against me, he was a maker of the 1917 February Russian Revolution, prime minister of Russia, the first leader of the Russian Republic, and the predecessor of Lenin and the Bolsheviks, who overthrew him in the October Revolution and formed the Soviet Union. (You can Google him!) A Red, then deposed by Reds, this politician aced me out from officially being a Red Hot Professor and defying the blue-and-gold. But now I see it as a tiny claim to fame: I came within four votes of overcoming—like Lenin—a world historical figure and a good man!
So at Stanford I could contest on nearly even terms for popularity with a Russian scholar who had ruled the biggest country in the world when a czar still was alive and the Soviet State and empire did not exist. And later I could chat, banter and argue with another professor in Russian history who lived next door to me—a woman who became secretary of state 15 years after that colossus of the 20th century, the Soviet Union, had disappeared. What a place! What a world!
Professor of biology
Haresh Shah, MS ’60, PhD ’63
Professor emeritus of civil and environmental engineering
James Gibbons, MS ’54, PhD ’56Professor (research) of electrical engineering