Although renowned computer scientist John L. Hennessy is about to become the president of tech-savvy Stanford University, many of his first challenges are likely to have little to do with technology. Arts and humanities, faculty concerns and student housing are the foremost concerns at the campus on the edge of Silicon Valley.
When he became Stanford's provost in June, Hennessy pledged to focus on technology, but as president he will be asked by students and faculty to round out what some see as science and technology-heavy offerings.
And despite media reports that Hennessy's appointment signals Stanford's increasing emphasis on technology--he has spent his academic life studying computers--those involved with the search said yesterday that he was chosen for his overall leadership skill.
Hennessy's background would indicate that he could be the ideal Silicon Valley president for a school that has long been associated with the tech world.
According to Stanford's News Office, as dean of the Stanford School of Engineering, Hennessy vowed to encourage the use of computer technology as an instructional and design tool. He was also responsible for overseeing the development of the first online master's degree offered by a major research university, in electrical engineering.
But Kristin A. Torres, a senior who served as the first-ever undergraduate on a Stanford presidential search committee, said yesterday that Hennessy wasn't picked because of his computer science and engineering background.
"That's not what determined our decision," she said. "He's broadly intelligent."
Torres, who juggled thesis writing with what she dubbed "five intense months" of searching, said the effort focused on the individual and not his field.
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