President Hennessy welcomes parents to 2013 school year

Dear Stanford Parent:

As we prepare to welcome both new and returning students to campus, I write to welcome you, too, to a new school year. Parents are valued members of the Stanford family, and each fall, I write to share news from the university and give you a sense of what the upcoming academic year holds for your son or daughter.

Bing Concert Hall
The Bing Concert Hall

This fall marks the beginning of the second season for our enormously popular Bing Concert Hall. One of the anchors in our new arts district, the Bing provides an acoustically intimate setting, and this season will take full advantage of that, with many performances focusing on the string quartet. The concert hall is also an important resource for students. After a grand opening in January, the inaugural season featured more than 30 student performances, and several times a week, the Department of Music holds rehearsals there. We also make low-cost tickets available to students, with the result that more than three times the number of students attended campus concerts last year.

Students returning to campus will see two other projects under way in the rapidly developing arts district. The gallery that will house the Anderson Collection at Stanford—a remarkable collection of 20th-century American art—is scheduled to open in 2014. And next to the Cantor, we’ve started construction on the McMurtry Building for the Department of Art and Art History. The McMurtry Building, which will be completed in 2015, will provide important new academic space for the arts, bringing together our programs in art practice, design, art history, film and media studies, and documentary filmmaking.

Over the past year, we have made enhancements to the undergraduate curriculum. The 2012 Study of Undergraduate Education at Stanford (SUES) included recommendations designed to better prepare our students for leadership in our interconnected, rapidly changing world.

A strong liberal education is the foundation of the Stanford experience, and SUES recommendations focused on developing both the breadth and depth of knowledge students will need in this century. A new approach to developing breadth—Ways of Thinking/Ways of Doing—moves away from discipline-based courses to a capacity-based model that embraces a diversity of approaches to learning. For this year, our faculty proposed more than 1,300 different Ways of Thinking/Ways of Doing courses, offered by 69 departments and programs. So, students will have no problem finding intriguing courses that will meet the breadth requirements.

Online educational technology offers other opportunities, and as vice provost, John Mitchell, the Mary and Gordon Crary Family Professor in the School of Engineering, is leading our effort in online learning. We are particularly interested in how it can enhance the learning environment for our students, particularly in the large lecture classes. We’ve developed hybrid courses that are a mix of online technology and in-class sessions, thus allowing faculty to spend more focused time with students.

Learning occurs in many environments, including the playing field. Our scholar-athletes are often among our most accomplished students, and I’ve heard from a number of university presidents over the past year who cite them as role models for intercollegiate athletes. In June, the Cardinal—for the 19th year in a row—won the Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup, a testament to the excellence of all of our student athletes and their coaches. As the Cardinal’s number one fan, I have no doubt the year ahead will be a great one. This fall, we look forward to a very competitive home schedule for the football team. After the spectacular win at the Rose Bowl last year, football season tickets sold out for the first time in Stanford history. In July! Of course, we have set aside a significant number of tickets in the Red Zone for students, and I imagine they will be quite popular.

For more detailed information about what your son or daughter can expect at Stanford this year, please click on the relevant links below.

You are an important partner in your child’s education, and if you would like to keep up with campus events and issues, there are a number of publications and websites available to you. The Stanford Parents’ Newsletter provides news of particular interest to parents and will be emailed to you each quarter. A wealth of information is also available online at the university’s website for parents,

Additionally, you may subscribe to daily news bulletins about the university through the Stanford News Service. Faculty lectures and events are featured on Stanford at iTunes U and the Stanford YouTube channel and provide another way to become involved in the life of the university.

If you have any questions not answered in these publications or websites, please contact the Parents’ Help Line at (650) 725-0649, or send an email to

I also invite you to join us at this year’s Parents’ Weekend on Feb. 21-22, 2014, where every year, I respond to parents’ questions.

I wish your son or daughter great success in the year ahead.


John L. Hennessy

Visit these website to link to letters specifically for the parents of freshmen, transfer students, sophomores, juniors and seniors.