When railroad magnate and former California Gov. Leland Stanford and his wife, Jane Lathrop Stanford, lost their only child, Leland, Jr., to typhoid in 1884, they decided to build a university as the most fitting memorial, and deeded to it a large fortune that included the 8,180-acre Palo Alto stock farm that became the campus. They made their plans just as the modern research university was taking form.
Leland Stanford Junior University – still its legal name – opened Oct. 1, 1891.
The Stanfords and founding President David Starr Jordan aimed for their new university to be nonsectarian, co-educational and affordable, to produce cultured and useful graduates, and to teach both the traditional liberal arts and the technology and engineering that were already changing America.
Their vision took shape on the oak-dotted fields of the San Francisco Peninsula as a matrix of arcades and quadrangles designed for expansion and the dissolving of barriers between people, disciplines and ideas.