John Hennessy was welcomed yesterday evening as the 10th President of Stanford University. The event was held in the Imperial Ballroom of the Fairmont Hotel, located at 170 South Market Street in San Jose. The reception was hosted and sponsored by a number of Stanford organizations, including:
- Bay Area Cardinal Young Alumni
- Bay Area Professional Women
- Friends of the Stanford University School of Education
- Northern California Black Alumni
- Northern California Chicano/Latino Alumni
- Parents Advisory Board Regional Representatives
- Silicon Valley Engineering Alumni
- Silicon Valley Reunion Class Volunteers
- Stanford Alumni of San Jose
- Stanford Asian/Pacific American Alumni
- Stanford Club of Los Gatos/Saratoga
- Stanford Cllub of Palo Alto
- Stanford Gay & Lesbian Alumni
- Stanford Law Society of Silicon Valley
- Stanford Nurse Alumnae
- Stanford Student Alumni Network
- The Peninsula Major Gifts Committe
Quite a list, but it had to be considering the kind of and amount of food and drink that they were serving at the hotel. A couple of open bars and loads upon loads of sushi greeted the Stanford Alumni as they passed attendees of a gaming convention to reach the Imperial Ballroom. I don’t know how much money they put down to host this event, but it must have been quite the bill! I counted past students from the Class of 1942 all the way to the most recent class of 2000. It was, by my estimation, predominantly an older crowd that attended the event to eat, socialize, and listen to John Hennessy, though I did see some of my friends from my days on the Farm, including Erin Turner, Neil Menzies, and Denise Morris.
Being John Hennessy
Hennessy is perhaps best known as one of the co-founders of MIPS Computer Systems, now known as MIPS Technology, Inc., a company specializing in microprocessor design and production. He received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Villanova University in 1973. In 1975 and 1977, he gained his master’s and doctoral degrees in computer science from the State University of New York, Stony Brook. Prior to becoming Stanford’s 10th President, succeeding the popular Gerhard Casper, Hennessy held the position of Provost, Stanford’s chief academic and budget officer. Before that, Hennessy served as the Dean of Engineering at Stanford.
He succeeds three former Presidents who were all grounded in the Humanities and Sciences. Many people wondered at the time of his selection, undoubtably at one of the heights of the Internet Age, if the Humanities and Sciences would suffer during his tenure as President. Last night, Hennessy reiterated the importance of those disciplines, making a few humorous references to the current energy crisis and technology slowdown to accentuate his points.
The speech was interrupted several times, not by former Band members screaming for the Cardinal to beat Cincinnati this evening in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, but by Stanford Alumni appreciative of Hennessy’s comments. He doesn’t have quite the humor or charm that Gerhard Casper, the only President of Stanford that I ever knew during my college days, possessed, but I think that Hennessy will do a good job. Although we’re in a technology slowdown, I think that it’s important that we bring the University up to speed to the 21st century, more so than any other college or university in the nation. The Humanities and Sciences, far from being squeezed out by technology, can stand to benefit the most from such a movement. Hennessy, with his background and experience in the Valley, might turn out to have been a great choice. Time will tell, and he has many difficult issues to wrestle with, including the housing crunch and the shrinking endowment.
Photographic conditions within the ballroom were, as to be expected, difficult. The lighting was dim, which forced me to use my 50mm f/1.4 wide open at very low shutter speeds. I’m always hesitant to push the camera to ISO800, due to the great increase in noise over ISO100-400, though I did it for a few shots that evening. I tested out using the RAW format of the D30 as well, though the speed at which it takes to download to and process the images on my computer will probably prevent me from doing that in the future. I didn’t use flash for much of the evening, which probably would have proven distracting for the attendees as Hennessy gave his speech. I was suprised that, amongst the crowd, there was no official photographer shooting the event, something I later I confirmed with the lady responsible for organizing the event