Ten Years of Hennessy

Stanford University President John Hennessy (Image: Stanford University)
The Mercury News published [a recent article](http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_16179308?source=most_emailed&nclick_check=1) about Stanford’s president John Hennessy’s decade at Stanford. The article pulls together a number of interesting numbers about Stanford (and Hennessy), as well as a generally interesting narrative about the man and his work:

$6.3 billion: gifts to Stanford over the past decade

72 percent: percentage of students who take an introductory CS class

4 years: number of years in a row that Stanford has led all universities in fund-raising

$2.9 million: stock sales by Hennessy this year, mostly of Google stock, but also Atheros, companies on whose boards Hennessy serves

10 years: length of Hennessy’s tenure at Stanford

What does all of this add up to?

The most obvious thing to see is that Hennessy’s tenure has been a successful one for Stanford: in spite of the losses of financial crisis, Stanford’s endowment has expanded and, with it, new buildings and new programs have been created, with a particular emphasis on interdisciplinary approaches to global problems: “energy, the environment, global health, international stability.”

The second note, however, is one that is forward, rather than backwards, looking: Hennessy’s tenure as Stanford president will likely soon come to an end. Most Stanford presidents have not served more than 10 years in office. Since Hennessy would need to leave time for Stanford to transition, even an announcement this year might mean another year under Hennessy after that, making his tenure a full 12 years. While Hennessy’s investment decisions (referenced earlier) are most likely just personal financial choices, his reduction in investments in some of the companies to which he has ties could also presage a move away from the Valley towards a new future elsewhere.

All of this returns, in some ways, to the appointment of the new Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education at the end of this past academic year. When Hennessy leaves, Provost Etchemendy will likely change jobs as well. That doesn’t mean leaving Stanford: it seems possible that he could ascend to the presidency. That would still mean, at the very least, a new Provost, quite possibly Harry Elam, the new VPUE. This subsequent promotion would be accelerated, since Elam would likely have held the VPUE position for only one or two years, but it seems as likely as any. If Etchemendy were to depart with Hennessy, then a full-scale replacement of the current leadership would have taken place over only a few years. In that environment, even Elam’s one to two years of tenure at the top could be important to continuity of success. We’ll see how things play out over over this year and the next.

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