Harvard of the East meets the "Harvard of the West' on the gridiron in Palo Alto, for that is how boastful Westerners refer to Stanford University. West of the Mississippi, Stanford in fact carries all the social and intellectual prestige that Harvard has in the East But at opposite ends of the continent, these universities represent opposite ways of college life. The gay, outdoor, coed, magazine-type collegiate life dominates Stanford. Often called a playboy's school, Stanford presents a happy blend of good comradeship, rural atmosphere, and high scholarship.
The three blend into something few Harvard men can under stand, the "Stanford spirit." It is something that makes people cheer their heads off at rallies, wear rooters' caps at football games, and yell like mad for a team that loses every game. It is an odd fact that Stanford's cheering was best when their team was worst--they actually did lose every game. It is an attitude of friendliness and love for the school that pervades the campus. Everyone is friendly "down on the Leland Stanford Farm."
The first hint a student receives of this is his arrival on the campus. There is no hazing to indoctrinate the newcomer in "spirit," nor does he spend his first few days facing a barrage of tests. He steps off the train and is welcomed by a special committee of sophomores. He sees a big sign in the station "Welcome Freshmen." He is guided to the campus, where his first days contain welcoming speeches, a big dance, meetings with advisers, exchange dinners with the girls' dorms, a tour around the "Farm," a varsity football game, and a barbecue supper for all new students. Thus he is introduced to the Stanford way of life.
Thirty-three Miles to Frisco
A rural atmosphere is part of the Stanford scheme. Away from the crowded cities, boys and girls, or rather roughs and coeds as they are called, are supposed to grow up in an invigorating atmosphere. The University's 9000 acres give students room to get up and stretch, while the intellectual advantages of San Francisco remain only 33 miles away.
Scholarship is skillfully added to this apparently carefree scheme. Stanford stands high on any scholastic ranking of American colleges and is generally regarded the best in the West. Its faculty salaries have always been large enough to attract top men in all fields. Admission is as tough for Californians as Harvard admission is for Easterners.
The origins of Stanford are shrouded in myths which go back to the great railroad man and Senator Leland Stanford himself. The story goes that the Senator gathered a few of his millions together and with a generous heart and bulging bank roll, proceeded to Yale University. (Some stories say it was Harvard, others both Harvard and Yale.) That dignified institution turned down the "tainted" money, feeling that it could not build a university with money gouged from California formers by a railroad monopoly. "Very well, I'll found a university of my own," said the good Senator, and so he did. Far too modest to name his institution after himself, he named it after his son, Laland Stanford, Jr.
Apart from the legend, the official story goes that the university was founded soon after the death of young Leland, in memory of the boy who died just before he reached college age. Senator Stanford expressed the desire that the university should bring intellectual life to the West and add to the vigor of the Western experience. He wanted a college that was free from the outworn traditions of older universities, especially one that would, in his words, "qualify its students for personal success and direct usefulness in life." He felt that colleges had become too far removed from American life. The new university would try to add practical knowledge to cultural experience.
Accordingly, the college was dedicated one year after Leland Jr.'s death, in 1885. It was built on the Senator's old horse farm, and the campus has been called "the Farm" ever since. In 1891, David Starr Jordan was appointed its first president, and in October of that year, the College began. From then on, Stanford grew with the West. Jordan quickly made the new school the intellectual center of the West. He led it through the troublesome early years and started its amazingly rapid growth. In 1915, Ray Lyman Wilber became president and completed the job of making Stanford a leading educational institution. He anticipated general education with a "lower division" program requiring a student to divide his studies for his first two years almost equally among the three general fields, humanities, social sciences, and physical sciences. Donald B. Tresidder was president from the early thirties until his sudden death two years ago. His extremely friendly relationship with the students is greatly responsible for that current phenomenon, Stanford spirit.
The Cheering Section
This spirit is perhaps best shown in rooting. Rooting for a team may be a casual act for an Easterner, but Californians take their cheering seriously. The supreme example of this is the West coast's Big Game--Stamford vs. California. These rivals from different sides of San Francisco Bay have been slugging it out with an intensity matched only by the Harvard-Yale tradition. But the Eastern rivalry is merely a contest between teams; out West, the whole school joins in the fray.
Two weeks before the scheduled game, martial law is declared on both campuses. Raiding parties can be expected any night. A concrete "C" in the Berkeley Hills usually gets a coat of cardinal red paint (Stanford's color), and numerous blue C's appear on the Farm. At Stanford, the defense of the college is turned over to the freshmen. Groups of these eager youths patrol the campus all night long. At any sign of danger, they ring the fire bell, the signal for the whole college to come to their aid. Both universities threaten expulsion for anyone caught defacing property, but the custom has grown of turning anyone caught over to the freshmen, instead of the University police. Solemn rites are then performed on the victim, his hair is shaved off, and a bright red "S" painted on his pate.
The Big Game