President Marc Tessier-Lavigne addresses Stanford families at Family Weekend

President Marc Tessier-Lavigne
President Marc Tessier-Lavigne addresses Stanford families during the annul Family Weekend.

For family members unable to join us for the annual Family Weekend, here are the welcoming remarks delivered by President Marc Tessier-Lavigne, who took the opportunity to update parents, guardians and others about the student experience at Stanford and the university’s long-range planning. After his remarks, the president engaged in conversation with Harry Elam, senior vice provost for education and vice president for the arts.


Thank you all for being here this weekend.

Family Weekend is such a highlight of our year. It really brightens up the winter months to have so many Stanford families here to visit.

Whether your student is a first year or a senior, I know they love the opportunity to give you this window into their Stanford life.

You’ll meet their friends, attend lectures, see the campus and get a feel for what it’s like to be a Stanford University student in 2019.

It has been a really exciting year so far. Besides the excitement of classes and extracurriculars that are part of daily life here, I want to touch on a few highlights from the year for our community as a whole.

  • We’ve had more than 100 guest artists visit campus so far this year, with more coming in the spring;
  • In November, one Rhodes Scholar, two Marshall Scholars, and two Mitchell scholars were named in our senior class;
  • This fall, our Stanford Votes campaign signed up more than 2,500 Stanford students for voter registration, absentee ballots, and election reminders;
  • Our women’s volleyball team won an unprecedented 8th national title;
  • And our football team won its 9th straight Big Game against Cal!

It’s been such an exciting year, and we are so pleased to welcome you to be a part of it.

Whether it’s your first visit or your fourth, we are SO happy to share this weekend with ALL of you.

Now, I’m in my third year as Stanford’s president.

But I’m attending Family Weekend not just in my capacity as president – but also as a Stanford parent.

Some of you may know that my daughter is a junior. I mention this because I want you to know that the most important perspective I bring to my responsibilities is a very personal one.

At the end of the day, I look at my work through the lens of a Stanford parent. It gives me a unique and personal window into the student experience.

I hear, from my daughter, what her daily life is like.

And I hear some of the same excitement, and concerns, that I expect many of you do.

Our students all face the pressures of choosing courses, navigating their social lives and maintaining well-being in the midst of busy schedules.

As a Stanford parent, I understand how important these issues are, and I take them very seriously.

My perspective as a parent also informs two subjects I want to touch on, briefly, before I begin my conversation with Harry this afternoon.

The first is the opportunities that your students are creating for themselves here at Stanford.

And the second is the opportunities that Stanford is working to create for them, and for the generations of students that will follow them.

You all know how hard your students worked to get to Stanford.

With your support, they found and created opportunities. Pursuing those opportunities brought them here today. I know you’re tremendously proud of them.

For much of adolescence and through their high school years, college was the end goal. But the need to create and pursue opportunities doesn’t end.

Many of you were here for Convocation this year. At Convocation, I urged your students to use their time at Stanford to explore.

I want to remind all of you of that charge, now.

For our students in the audience: The middle of the academic year is a great time to look up from your studies and to take advantage of what Stanford has to offer:

  • Explore a new area of study.
  • Make time for your friends.
  • Meet new people outside your normal circles.
  • Pursue something that intrigues you!
  • It’s never too late to try new things.

In my junior year of college, I became a photographer for the campus newspaper. And then senior year, I became a writer for the paper.

During these winter months, I urge you to enhance your lives with art, with athletics, with student groups and activities, and with the many performances and lectures that are available to you here on campus. There are opportunities here to explore virtually everything that interests you.

For our families: This weekend’s schedule gives you a small taste of what exploration looks like at Stanford.

You have the opportunity to explore everything from our community centers to our museums, from campus architecture to the biological preserve, from our residence halls to the stadium. You can attend lectures on creative writing or virtual reality, brain development or the future of coral reefs.

And that’s just a small sampling of the hundreds of opportunities that Stanford has to offer its students.

We encourage exploration because it’s crucial to our students discovering their passions and talents.

It also helps our students prepare for the future.

They will discover that employers are looking for graduates with a breadth of knowledge across disciplines and the ability to think deeply and understand varied perspectives. The future of many of our most important fields, from journalism to medicine to technology, requires an interdisciplinary mindset.

And you never know what skills you may develop here that you can use in the future. There’s a famous story about Steve Jobs taking a class in calligraphy. He did it on a whim, only to find years later that it helped him revolutionize desktop printing.

So students, I encourage you, again, to explore your opportunities. It will set you up to succeed not only here at Stanford, but throughout your careers.

Stanford is also working to develop new opportunities for our current students, and for the generations of students who will follow them.

You may have heard about Stanford’s long-range vision, which was developed to guide the university as we plan for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.

Our vision is built on more than 2,800 ideas gathered from the Stanford community, including many from our students.

These are the high-level themes that emerged:

1. Enabling and Empowering Creativity in Research.

  • This is about supporting fundamental research, providing flexible resources, and encouraging a broader collaborative environment.

2. Accelerating Solutions for Society.

  • This means creating a systematic approach to making discoveries and then applying them so they can make a difference in our world.
  • For example, getting lifesaving drug technology from the lab to the patient more quickly.

3. Enhancing Our Learning Community for the 21st Century.

  • This last one will have the most direct impact on our undergraduates.

For example, many students find transformative communities and educational experiences in their dorms. We want to ensure this can be true for all of our students.

We want to be intentional about creating communities that nurture learning throughout the four years that most students live on campus, while also supporting each students’ personal needs and well-being.

You may also have heard about our plan to redesign White Plaza—that area between the bookstore and the student union—into a vibrant community gathering space. We envision this space becoming a new social and community hub.

We are also exploring opportunities to enhance the first year of studies and rethink the future of the major to emphasize a broad academic experience.

Throughout the process, we have deeply valued input from our students and their families.

Some of you—especially the seniors who are in the audience today—will graduate before all of these plans come to fruition. But we hope you will always consider Stanford home, and return often to see this vision, which you helped create, become a reality.

Before I close, I want to tell our families how much I continue to learn from your students.

I find great joy in talking with them, hearing about their lives, and working with them to make Stanford better. It’s by far the most rewarding part of my job.

I hope you can see all of the opportunities they are creating for themselves—and the ones that Stanford is developing, too.

I hope you enjoy your time this weekend—learning more about what it means to be a Stanford student in 2019, and building wonderful memories with your students.

Now, I’m going to bring Harry back on stage, and he and I will discuss these and other topics. And I want to hear what’s on your minds, too.

But let me say again—thank you for sharing your extraordinary students with us. And thank you for spending this weekend with us!”