Storied Traditions

[2017 Approaching Stanford information will be updated by mid-May when the Approaching Stanford process begins for the Class of 2021 and new transfers. Below is information from 2016 - note that it has not been updated and should not be used to make plans for 2017.]

Opening Convocation

When Stanford opened on October 1, 1891, after six years of planning and building, construction workers remained busy preparing the Inner Quadrangle for the ceremonies even into the morning hours. Two thousand seats were set in the Quad, but the crowd soon exceeded expectations. One faculty member recalled, “Hope was in every heart, and the presiding spirit of freedom prompted us to dare greatly.” At the opening ceremonies that day, Senator Leland Stanford addressed the nearly 500 women and men in the first freshman and transfer classes: “You, students, are the most important factor in the university [....] All that we can do for you is to place the opportunities within your reach.” Jane Stanford also prepared a speech for the occasion, but she was too overcome with emotion to deliver that speech. In it she wrote, “Leland and I have at heart… the hope that you will each strive to place yourselves a high moral standard; that you will resolve to go forth from classrooms determined in the future to be leaders with high aims and pure standards; and live such lives that it will be said of you that you are true to the best you know.”

On Tuesday, September 20, 2016, the University will celebrate the 126th Opening Convocation when President Marc Tessier-Lavigne inaugurates the new academic year. The ceremony is characterized by the grandeur of a processional of faculty and the Board of Trustees in their academic regalia and the heraldic flags representing the University, the Office of the President, and the seven schools. Although the entering class has now grown to over 1,700, when you gather in this same distinguished Quad, you will join the ranks of more than 218,000 alumni around the world in marking the start of your Stanford journey.

Hail, Stanford, Hail

Albert W. Smith, a mechanical engineering professor, and his wife Mary Roberts, (who later joined the sociology faculty) composed “Hail, Stanford, Hail” in 1892. The song became popular in 1902 after it was performed on campus by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and was then adopted as the Stanford hymn. The hymn, which is commonly referred to as “The Alma Mater,” is performed during University ceremonial events, including Opening Convocation, and it may also be sung by the crowd on other occasions, such as following a victory in a major athletic event. It is tradition to stand, link arms with those beside you, and sway as you sing “Hail, Stanford, Hail”:

Where the rolling foothills rise

Up towards mountains higher,

Where at eve the Coast Range lies

In the sunset fire,

Flushing deep and paling;

Here we raise our voices, hailing

Thee our Alma Mater.

From the foothills to the bay,

It shall ring,

As we sing,

It shall ring and float away;

Hail, Stanford, hail!

Hail, Stanford, hail!

Senior Class Plaques

Did you know that you can see (and touch) your class plaque in the Frances C. Arrillaga Center? It will remain hanging on the wall the four years you are at Stanford. During spring quarter of your senior year, you will have the opportunity to put an item in the time capsule that will be placed underneath your class plaque when it is laid in the Main Quad arcade. The class plaque tradition dates back to 1896 when the class obtained permission from Jane Stanford to install a bronze plate featuring their class numerals under the Main Quad arcade.

Stanford Today

In the 125 years since its founding, Stanford has in many ways stayed the same. It is still on the same 8,180 acres that was the Stanfords’ Palo Alto Stock Farm and is still a place that never allows tradition to restrict creativity and innovation. Over the years, Stanford has grown to seven schools (Business, Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences, Education, Engineering, Humanities and Sciences, Law, and Medicine), 2,150 faculty members, 7,000 undergraduates, 9,150 graduate students, 650 student organizations, and 36 varsity sports. With the University’s growth come greater opportunities and challenges to help you grow as a person, develop as a scholar, and emerge as a leader.

You, the Class of 2020 and transfer students, are whom Leland and Jane envisaged long ago. The path you chart through Stanford adds not only to your own personal history, but also to the growing legacy of Leland and Jane’s generosity. In the name of Leland, Jr., approach Stanford with the goal of developing into the scholar and citizen you desire to become.

“Leland and I have at heart… the hope that you will each strive to place yourselves a high moral standard; that you will resolve to go forth from classrooms determined in the future to be leaders with high aims and pure standards; and live such lives that it will be said of you that you are true to the best you know.” -Jane Stanford