The Rejection That Led to the Founding of Stanford University-



Summary of eRumor:According to the story, two “country hicks” came to Harvard and wanted to talk with the president.  A haughty secretary resisted the couple and made them wait for hours.  In exasperation, she finally asked the president to see the visitors, which he did if for no other reason to get rid of them.  The couple told him their son had attended Harvard for a year and he had loved it, but had been killed in an accident and they wanted to build a memorial to him.  The president discouraged them, saying they couldn’t erect a memorial to every student who had died.  The couple said they were thinking of donating for an entire building in their son’s honor.  The president discouraged them and mentioned how much all of the buildings at Harvard were worth.  The lady commented to her husband that if that was all it took to build a university, they ought to construct their own.  So…Mr. and Mrs. Leland Stanford went to Palo Alto, California and built a school in honor of their son…a memorial to a student that Harvard no longer cared about.

The Truth:

  According to Stanford University, this eRumor is not true.  Leland Stanford was once governor of California and in 1876, he bought the first of what would become more than 8,000 acres of land on the San Francisco peninsula.  Leland and Jane Stanford had one son, Leland, Jr., but he never attended Harvard.  He died at the age of 15 on a family trip to Italy, but from typhoid fever, not from an accident.  Within a few hours of his son’s death, Stanford said to his wife, “The children of California shall be our children.”  That was the beginning of Stanford University, according to the official account. For more information: Stanford website with details on the beginning

A real example of the eRumor as it has appeared on the Internet:

True Story

A lady in a faded gingham dress and her husband, dressed in a homespun threadbare suit, stepped off the train in Boston and walked timidly without an appointment into the Harvard University President’s outer office. The secretary could tell in a moment that such backwoods, country hicks had no business at Harvard and probably didn’t even deserve to be in Cambridge. She frowned. “We want to see the President,” the man said softly.

“He’ll be busy all day,” the secretary snapped.

“We’ll wait,” the lady replied. For hours, the secretary ignored them, hoping that the couple would finally become discouraged and go away. They didn’t and the secretary grew frustrated and finally decided to disturb the President, even though it was a chore she always regretted.

“Maybe if they just see you for a few minutes, they’ll leave,” she told him. He sighed in exasperation and nodded. Someone of his importance obviously didn’t have the time to spend with them, but he detested gingham dresses and homespun suits cluttering up his outer office.

The President, stern-faced with dignity, strutted toward the couple. The lady told him, “We had a son who attended Harvard for one year. He loved Harvard. He was happy here. But about a year ago, he was accidentally killed. And my
husband and I would like to erect a memorial to him, somewhere on campus.”

The President wasn’t touched, he was shocked. “Madam,” he said gruffly. “We can’t put up a statue for every person who attended Harvard and died. If we did, this place would look like a cemetery.”

“Oh, no,” the lady explained quickly. “We don’t want to erect a statue. We thought we would like to give a building to Harvard.”
The president rolled his eyes. He glanced at the gingham dress and homespun suit, then exclaimed, “A building! Do you have any earthly idea how much a building costs? We have over seven and a half million dollars in the physical plant at Harvard.”
For a moment the lady was silent. The president was pleased. He could get rid of them now. And the lady turned to her husband and said quietly, “Is that all it costs to start a university? Why don’t we just start our own?” Her husband nodded.

The President’s face wilted in confusion and bewilderment. And Mr. and Mrs. Leland Stanford walked away, traveling to Palo Alto, California where they established the university that bears their name, a memorial to a son that Harvard no longer cared about.

You can easily judge the character of others by how they treat those who can do nothing for them or to them.

Malcolm Forbes