Looking back, and ahead

An email message from President Tessier-Lavigne to Stanford faculty, staff and students dated September 1, 2017.

Dear Stanford community,

Thank you all for so warmly welcoming me to Stanford exactly one year ago today. Together we have experienced a year of great transition both on and off campus, and I have witnessed with pride how you have advanced our mission of bettering the world through education and research while strengthening our community. This anniversary provides an opportunity for me to share a few brief reflections on our fundamental values and our vision of a truly purposeful university.

These issues are particularly important to reflect on in light of the events that have brought so much suffering in just the past few weeks. Our hearts go out to the victims of natural disasters, including the many dead and thousands more whose lives have been upended by Hurricane Harvey and its devastation. They also go out to the victims of violence, including those mowed down by terrorists in Barcelona and in Charlottesville. The loss of life in Charlottesville culminated a repugnant and violent display of racism, anti-Semitism, bigotry and hatred that is antithetical to the fundamental values of our nation. It is also antithetical to the values of our university.

As I have learned from all of you this past year, Stanford’s strength comes from the diversity of our community, and our culture of inclusion of people of all backgrounds, nationalities, races, genders, identities, religions, political views and ways of thinking. A thriving academic community depends on the free and open exchange of ideas in a culture of mutual respect, free of harassment, intimidation and violence. In this new academic year, let us rededicate ourselves to these fundamental values and reject the intolerance that we have been reminded of so vividly in recent weeks.

Over this first year I also have observed a deep commitment to and abiding affection for our university. The tremendous level of participation this spring in our Long-Range Planning effort by members of our campus community and our alumni – who submitted over 2,700 ideas and proposals – is extraordinary and exceeded our expectations. Our four Area Steering Groups are diving into the wealth of your ideas. Exciting themes are emerging to invigorate our education and research, to support and strengthen our community, and to engage and contribute to the world around us. I know the ideas you submitted come from your personal interest in Stanford’s future and impact, and your desire to make our campus an even better place to learn, work and live. I want you to know that the feedback from all of you is being heard. We are all part of this collective undertaking for our future.

I also have learned, in my many visits to dorms, staff and faculty meetings, alumni events and other gatherings, that there is indeed much more we can do to make our university more welcoming, more innovative, more visionary. Both Persis and I will be looking critically at the places we can improve as a university in support of our mission, both within the Long-Range Planning process and beyond. Our doors are always open to hear your feedback.

Stanford has a proud history of ingenuity and resilience in the face of challenges. Since its founding over a century ago, Stanford has not only weathered challenges, it has approached them with optimism and spirit. I am also very conscious of our role in the world. We all must take seriously the responsibility we have to leverage Stanford’s many strengths to benefit the wider world.

I am grateful for the welcome you have extended to me over the last year. My focus on listening and learning is ongoing – engagement with our community is one of the most important parts of my role. I look forward to continuing to learn more from you, to serving you and to being in discussion with you. I am excited for what lies ahead.

Marc Tessier-Lavigne