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Voices from the Hennessy Presidency: Collected Interviews with University Leaders, 2000-2016

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Cover of Voices from Hennessy Presidency
Available now in print and ebook.

In these candid oral history interviews, twenty-one leaders in higher education reflect on their experiences at Stanford during John L. Hennessy’s tenure as president (2000-2016). Their stories illuminate the struggles and opportunities, the strategies, and the decision-making process of an exceptional leader and his team during both a golden age and a time of challenge for one of the world’s greatest research universities.

Hennessy and his team put in place interdisciplinary structures that redefined the research landscape, reimagined the student experience, expanded medical research and clinical services, and oversaw the largest building program in Stanford history—all enabled by transformational fundraising.

The interviews in this collection tell the stories behind those accomplishments. They speak to the nature of team leadership, the processes that spark innovation, the keys to attracting and retaining talent, and the fragile balance between central control and decentralized autonomy. Together they offer a nuanced account of what it takes to lead a great university.

Praise for Voices from the Hennessy Presidency

“Rare insights into the complex, uniquely American institution that is the modern university.”
—David M. Kennedy, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Freedom from Fear

“A novel approach to telling university history…By fostering collaboration and bridge-building across disciplines, Hennessy and his team developed new models for organizing the 21st century’s research university.”
—Susan Hockfield, Phd, MIT President Emerita and Professor of Neuroscience

“Captures the greatness of the Hennessy era with a unique insider perspective and offers invaluable lessons and insights for all of us working to benefit humanity through the pursuit of research, scholarship, and education”
—Henry T. Yang, Chancellor, University of California, Santa Barbara

“Delivers fresh insight into a transformative and consequential moment in the history of Stanford, Silicon Valley, and American higher education…immensely valuable”
—Margaret O’Mara, author of The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America

Captures Stanford’s achievements “through the eyes of…the key people who worked with President Hennessy—the engineers of this transformation. It is an important document in the history of American higher education”
—A. Michael Spence, former dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University and of the Stanford Graduate School of Business; winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences

Read more endorsements


Part One: Inside the President's Office

John Hennessy (President, 2000–2016)
John Etchemendy (Provost, 2000–2017)
Jeff Wachtel (Special Assistant to President Hennessy, 2000–2016)

Part Two: Chairs of the Board of Trustees

Isaac Stein (Member of the Board of Trustees, 1994–2004 and 2006–2016; Chair of the Board of Trustees, 2000–2004)
Leslie Hume (Member of the Board of Trustees, 2000–2012; Chair of the Board of Trustees, 2008–2012)
Steve Denning (Member of the Board of Trustees, 2004–2017; Chair of the Board of Trustees, 2012–2017)

Part Three: Academic Leadership at the School Level

Jim Plummer (Dean of the School of Engineering, 1999–2014)
Bob Joss (Dean of the Graduate School of Business, 1999–2009)
Phil Pizzo (Dean of the School of Medicine, 2001–2012)
Pam Matson (Dean of the School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences, 2002–2017)
Deborah Stipek (Dean of the School of Education, 2001–2012, 2014–2015)
Larry Kramer (Dean of the Law School, 2004–2012)
Richard Saller (Dean of Humanities and Sciences, 2007–2018)

Part Four: Cross-University Functions and Interdisciplinary Initiatives

John Bravman (Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, 1999–2010)
Harry Elam (Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, 2010-2020)
Patti Gumport (Vice Provost for Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs, 2006-2019)
Ann Arvin (Vice Provost and Dean of Research, 2006–2018)
Carla Shatz (Director, Stanford Bio-X, 2007–present)
Jeff Koseff (Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, 2005–present)
Randy Livingston (Vice President for Business Affairs, Chief Financial Officer, and University Liaison for Stanford Medicine, 2001–present)
Bob Reidy (Vice President , Land, Buildings and Real Estate, 1997–present)

About the Editor

Eric Knight

Professor Eric Knight is an internationally recognized scholar of organizational theory and strategic management and the executive dean of the business school at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. His research uses theories from analytic philosophy and sociology to better understand social and communication processes within organizations, the dynamic process of strategic change, and how organizations manage the complex tensions that accompany innovation. He has published in such top-tiered journals as Strategic Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, Organization Studies, and Human Relations. This book emerged from his time as a Fulbright Senior Scholar at Stanford University in 2019. He completed his doctorate as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University.