Thursday, February 1, 2024

Stanford University



I try to visit colleges and universities when I have the time. I have found that you can learn a lot about a city or state by the schools they create, and by the art museums they curate.  I have visited California many times. Yet, in all of my visits, I had never been to California’s version of an ivy league school. Stanford University. On a recent trip to San Francisco, my friend Rita offered to give me a tour of the school.

The Gov. Stanford Locomotive by Ben Franske vis wikimedia commons


Stanford University was founded in 1885 by Leland and Jane Stanford, in memory of their son, Leland Jr., who died in 1884 of typhoid fever. The Stanfords made their fortune with controlling interests in the Central Pacific and Southern Pacific Railroads along with founding the Pacific Life Insurance company and Wells Fargo Bank. The Stanfords owned land in Palo Alto County just south of San Francisco, and they decided to build their university there.

The Stanford Family from Stanford University Archives

Leland, Jane and Leland Jr. are all interred in the family mausoleum, which is on the campus of Stanford University. The mausoleum was designed in a Neo-classical style with sphinxes guarding both the front and back of the building. Originally, the front was supposed to have Greek sphinxes, which are female, and have bare breasts. This offended Jane, and so she ordered them to be placed at the back of the mausoleum, with male Egyptian sphinxes at the front.

Near the mausoleum is the Arizona Cactus Garden. The garden was planted in the 1880’s, as part of a home that the Stanfords were planning to build on the site. After the death of Leland Jr., the plans for the house were shelved in favor of the university, and the garden was included in the campus.

The Cantor Arts Center is one of the most extensive I have found on a college campus. It started with the donation of the Stanford family collection. Today the 13,000 sq. Ft. building consists of collections of art from around the world. There are 199 pieces by Rodin, the third largest collection in the world. The Center also houses African, Asian and Native American art, along with pieces from the entire history of European art.

Three Large Shades by Auguste Rodin

Seated Woman by Auguste Rodin

The Thinker by Auguste Rodin

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto by Jamil Heller

Untitled by Ruth Asawa

Palo Alto Spring by Thomas E Hull

Knick Knacks from the Standford Families personal collection

OY/YO by Deborah Kass

Metabiotica8 by Alexandre Órion

Caricia by Mariana Yampolsky

Viktoria by Deborah Butterfield

Zebra Family by Morris Hirshfield

Birds and Gate by Morris Hirshfield

Daniel in the Lion's Den by Morris Hirshfield

Shipwreck by André Bauchant

Untitled by Hector Hyppolite

Woman Listening to Music by Joan Miró

New York Corner by Edward Hopper

The Garden of Gerberoy House by Henri Le Sidaner

No trip to Stanford University would be complete without a visit to the Stanford Memorial Church. It was consecrated in 1903 a memorial to Leland Stanford, by Jane, after his death. It is one of the largest non-denominational churches in California.

Stanford was a truly impressive campus. The money behind it, both at its founding and today has bought an amazing space for learning. 


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