* * * * *
“Wally [Sterling] never told anyone bad news that I know of. So Fred [Terman] kind of had to. But, in essence, Wally let Fred run the intellectual establishment…And Fred was impressive. He was certainly not chatty. He was not personable. But he was very task-oriented. And they made a wonderful team. Different guys in their roles—in the boom of this area—would’ve made Stanford a better local university, period. But...Wally and Fred chose to do much more than that.”
Benjamin Scott Crocker Professor of Human Biology, Professor of Psychology, Emeritus, and former Provost and Dean of Humanities & Sciences
“Dr. [Lorenz] Eitner asked Ann Rosener if I would photograph the [Art Department’s] cramped quarters on Geology Corner. He wanted a new space...So he made arrangements through Ann for me to go photograph Keith Boyle’s life drawing class. Well, the life model didn’t want to be in the picture. So here’s this long room, I’m over here in this corner photographing into that corner and that other corner – I had to avoid the model, you see. But anyway, I printed them and gave them to Ann. She took them to Dr. Eitner. He said, “The minute I saw the pictures I knew I’d asked the wrong man.” ...Well, it didn’t show the cramped quarters...But the pictures I did take he considered poetic. Ann had some other pictures [of mine] she’d been saving, and she showed them to him. And he said, “Why don’t we give him a show? So that’s how it started.”
Senior Lecturer Emeritus and famed photographer
The Stanford Historical Society Oral History Program purpose, projects and other information are described below. A great many interviews are available online and can be accessed at the Oral History Online Access page.
The Stanford Historical Society's Oral History Program explores the institutional history of the University, with an emphasis on the transformative post-WWII period, through interviews with leading faculty, staff, alumni, trustees, and others. The project furthers the Society's mission "to foster and support the documentation, study, publication, and preservation of the history of the Leland Stanford Junior University."
The interview recordings and transcripts provide valuable additions to the existing collection of written and photographic materials in the Stanford University Archives. In addition to scholarly use, information from these interviews may be shared more broadly through print articles and campus lectures. The interview materials are also made accessible online.
Like any primary source material, oral history is not intended to present the final, verified, or complete narrative of events. It is a unique, reflective, spoken account, offered by the interviewee in response to questioning, and as such it may be deeply personal. By capturing the flavor of incidents, events, and personalities, the oral history approach provides details and viewpoints that are not often found in traditional records.
Under the leadership of the late Fred Glover in the 1980s, Society volunteers partnered with the Archives to record over 60 in-depth interviews with individuals who have figured prominently in Stanford's history. In 2006, the oral history project was re-launched and over 200 interviews have since been conducted by Society volunteers. (A detailed history is available in a special issue of Sandstone & Tile, Vol 36, No 3.)
These interviews strive to capture the rich facets of student life at Stanford and the impact of a Stanford education. The Alumni Stories project was piloted during Reunion Homecoming Weekend in October 2007, supported by a grant from the Stanford Associates. It was repeated in October 2008. Over 60 alumni, most attending their 50th reunions, recounted their memories and stories about undergraduate student life in the 1950s. Some excerpts from the Class of ’57 interviews were made into an audio clip (7M, mp3) and a related article was published in Sandstone & Tile, Vol 32, No 1. Another article, "Aspirations and Restrictions: Stanford Women in the Fifties," is edited from the interviews of the alumnae in the two Alumni Stories projects.
In 2009 and 2011 interviews were conducted with members of the Founding Grant Society in conjunction with their annual meeting. The purpose was to further document prior Stanford student life as well as to explore the meaning of Stanford to these individuals who have developed a sustained relationship with the university.
Athletics Hall of Fame
These oral history interviews, in collaboration with the Athletics Department, tell the stories of prominent Stanford student-athletes and coaches while capturing the history of the development of athletics at the university.
This is an effort to document the histories of individuals who have played important roles in neighboring communities.
Launched in 2009, the Diversity Oral History Project is a multi-phase project that aims to document the history of diversity at Stanford. The first phase of the project, Undergraduate Racial and Ethnic Diversity, seeks to re-capture what happened in the two decades between the late 1960s and the late 1980s that initiated and then shaped a significant increase in undergraduate student diversity at Stanford. We hope that future phases may explore other dimensions of the history of diversity, including but not limited to gender, religion and sexual orientation. This project is also supported by a grant from the Stanford Associates.
Faculty and Staff
Over the twentieth century, Stanford University has grown in stature and influence, transforming from a respected regional university to a renowned research and academic institution. Our work with leading Stanford faculty and staff seeks to document this transformation from “good to great.” Some interviews are life-history oriented, capturing the breadth and depth of faculty and staff members’ Stanford experiences. Other interviews are topically driven, narrowing in on a specific theme or event; for example, theme interviews shed light on the careers of several Stanford studio art faculty members, and explored the evolution of the field of physics at Stanford.
This project highlights the contributions of the spouses of faculty members while also illuminating the history of the university.
Growing Up on Campus
These oral histories shed light on the historical times and personalities, as well as the changes on the Stanford campus, through the recollections of individuals who grew up in campus homes as the children of Stanford faculty or staff members.
Peace Corps 50th Anniversary
As part of the Peace Corps 50th anniversary celebration in 2011, the Historical Society partnered with Stanford’s Haas Center for Public Service on campus to conduct interviews of 15 returned Peace Corps volunteers, most of whom are Stanford alums, faculty, or staff members.
This project interviews individuals, some of whom are alumni, who have contributed to the growth of Stanford University through their philanthropy.
Through this project we interview family members of former university presidents as well as staff members who served at the Hoover House—the official residence of Stanford presidents. These interviews contribute additional perspectives on the lives of the university presidents and their administrations.
Access to Oral History
The Historical Society encourages the oral history efforts of other campus organizations and may be able to provide training, equipment or modest funding support.
Supporting Oral History Projects
The Stanford Historical Society relies on the generosity of our members and friends to fund all of our programs. In order to continue and augment our oral history efforts, we are seeking special grants and gifts to support personnel and other costs such as purchase of equipment, transcription services, and post-interview production. If you are interested in helping to advance this important and timely work, please contact us at email@example.com or 650-725-3332.
Joining the Oral History Team
The Stanford Historical Society welcomes any individual who would like to contribute to our oral history work. Volunteers may participate in any or all aspects of a project, including conceptualization, research, interviewing, transcribing recordings and editing transcripts. Training will be provided. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 650-725-3332.