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1.1 Founding of the University and History of Academic Development

Handbook Pages

Leland Stanford Junior University was founded by Leland and Jane Stanford in 1885 in memory of their only son, Leland Junior, who died of typhoid fever in Florence, Italy in 1884 just before his 16th birthday. His parents had come to California in 1852 and, although Mr. Stanford was trained as a lawyer, he entered the mercantile business with his brothers in the gold fields. They established large scale operations in Sacramento where Mr. Stanford became a leader in business and politics.
David Starr Jordan, a world-famed ichthyologist, was 40 years old when he was selected in 1891 by Senator and Mrs. Stanford to be the first president. He served until 1913 and thereafter was Chancellor and Chancellor Emeritus until his death in 1931. John Casper Branner, Professor of Geology and Vice President of the University, served as President from 1913 until his retirement in 1915.
David Starr Jordan was appointed President in March, 1891, and by June his first faculty—17 men of youth and scholarly promise—had accepted appointments. Jordan sought professors who combined abilities for teaching and for research. The first class of 465 students was double the expectations, and 29 professors were added the second year. The Professoriate grew to nearly 300 by 1946, and in the postwar years moved ahead rapidly to its present level of about 2,210.
When Ray Lyman Wilbur took office in 1915, the faculty was grouped into 26 independent departments showing what Registrar J. P. Mitchell referred to kindly as “a serious absence of cooperation.” It took 10 years to evolve a system of Schools. The University currently has 7 schools: the School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences, the Graduate School of Education, the School of Engineering, the Graduate School of Business, the School of Humanities and Sciences, the Law School, and the School of Medicine.
Four hundred sixty-five students, 20 graduate students among them, were registered when the dedication ceremonies were held on the Inner Quad in October 1891. Total enrollment topped a thousand by the fourth year, and reached 2,200 in 1915, including 343 graduate students. The post-World War II surge brought 5,347 undergraduates and 2,970 graduates to the campus by 1948. Currently, about 6,700 undergraduate and 8,100 graduate students are enrolled.