Witness Post: Yale & Stanford
It was December, 2010, and our colleagues at Nierenberg Investment Management were all a-buzz. We were attending our annual Christmas Party, this time at our home in Portland, Oregon. We were thrilled to hear that morning that Elodie Nierenberg had been accepted to Stanford, and that she was “over the moon” to be in the class of 2015! With the successful early admittance of Elodie to Stanford, I quickly wrote and offered our dinner guests the following toast:
“I can already see the Stanford Development Office clapping their hands and smiling and figuring out a way to ingratiate themselves to David and Patricia. And why not? Who wouldn’t want the Nierenberg’s to join the other parents of Stanford students to be in their list of benefactors?
To tie together Stanford and Yale, I offer the following Witness Post.
In the early 1970’s, after too many years of “deferred maintenance” and a flagging endowment, Yale needed to raise a lot of money. David Nierenberg and I were still undergraduates. Bill Beinecke, Ed Swenson and members of the Yale Corporation launched The Campaign for Yale. The Campaign committee counted all the building, scholarship, and maintenance costs needed and set its goal to raise $360 million. That sum sounds like small potatoes today, but at the time it was the largest fund raising amount ever attempted by a private university. Leadership is always key in fundraising and the President, Kingman Brewster, had his share of naysayers.
In 1977, while David was second year student at Yale Law School, Brewster suddenly resigned as President of Yale and Hanna Holborn Gray, the Provost at the time, became the Acting President.
Kingman Brewster Hanna Holborn Gray
Working for The Campaign in the San Francisco office (from 1976 to 1978), we were struggling with our regional goal of $16 million, and were frantically scheduling prospecting meetings, calling alumni, setting up committees, and writing letters. We had decided to do whatever it took to hit our goal, even if that meant we had to contact every Yale alumnus, alumna, parent or friend of Yale in the western states. It was tough duty.
West Coasters are not likely to know or care where their neighbor went to college. In our campaign office we spent hours and hours calling disenfranchised and disengaged alumni. The calls and meetings were laborious and the campaign seemed to drag for months on end. Bill Draper, our regional chairman, constantly sent us messages of encouragement. He was determined that we would reach our goal and he made tons of calls himself. Gradually, though, as if there were a lifting San Francisco fog, Yale graduates with great experiences and deep affections emerged and raised their hands. They had had meaningful years during their time in New Haven and appreciated their education.
Coincidentally, my coworker in the San Francisco office was my classmate, Sarah Muyskens. Sarah’s father, John Muyskens, had been the director of undergraduate admissions at Stanford in the 60’s. In 1970 “Inky” Clark lured Muyskens to leave Stanford and move to Connecticut to work in undergraduate admissions at Yale. Clark had been a very controversial director for admitting students with diversity over athletes and alumni children. The Muyskens family picked up stakes and moved to New Haven. It was John Muyskens who signed David Nierenberg’s, Sarah Muyskens’ and my letter of admissions to Yale in 1971 and 1972.
In the world of fundraising, having the President leave in middle of major capital campaign is always problematic. At the same time having a beloved professor, or a high ranking administrator, fly in to visit your state could be an important stroke of good fortune. Every regional fundraising office would try to curry special favor with Professors Donald Kagan, Vincent Scully or Howard Lamar.
As luck would have it, Hanna Gray was on the Board of the Hoover Institute, a think tank affiliated with Stanford. She flew to California for periodic meetings. We begged the President’s Office to get on her schedule for a spring dinner in her honor. After months of cajoling, they agreed! Sarah Muyskens and I worked with our alumni committee and decided to hold the dinner at the Palace Hotel in the Garden Room in San Francisco. We worked for many weeks on the planning, because we wanted to pack the house with Yalies. We even sampled all of the entrées, wines and desserts to pick the best menu for the gala (not so tough duty).
Garden Room, Palace Hotel, San Francisco
Yale had an alumni office in Palo Alto at the time, and the office manager, Barbara Ayers, called Sarah and me a week before the gala. Somehow Barbara and the Alumni House in New Haven had persuaded Hanna Gray to attend a local alumni event in Palo Alto, after her Hoover Institute meeting but before she drove to San Francisco for our dinner. The extra party made the logistics tight, but we agreed and crossed our fingers that the traffic on Highway 101 would be light that day.
When the administration at Stanford got wind that the Acting Yale President was going to be attending a special event in their backyard, they quickly called Sarah and me. The receptionist asked if Richard “Dick” Lyman, the President of Stanford, could attend the Yale Alumni Event in Palo Alto. We were flattered that President Lyman was interested. We checked with Barbara Ayers and Bill Draper, and we all agreed that we would be honored to have President Lyman as our guest.
Richard W. Lyman
It turns out Dick Lyman had grown up in New Haven. As a boy he had been a big fan of Albie Booth, the legendary Eli football star, also a New Haven native. Lyman’s middle name is Wall and he is related to the Wall family from New Haven, after whom Wall Street (the street in front of Beinecke Library and the Yale Law School) is named.
At the reception, Dick Lyman clinked his high ball glass and asked for the floor. He made a surprising toast. He said that Stanford was having a major capital campaign of its own and, although it was in its “quiet phase,” he wanted to wager a bet with Hanna Gray. He said, “I was born in New Haven and I bet that I can raise more money for Stanford from New Haven, than you can for Yale in Palo Alto.” (Hanna should have realized that New Haven was more than twice the size of Palo Alto, but it did not seem to matter at the time). Hanna rousingly took the bet, they shook hands, and everyone seemed pleased with the cocktail party.
The dinner at the Palace Hotel was grand, and the Garden Court was packed with Bulldogs, to our fund raising delight. Some alumni flew to the dinner from Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and San Diego. Everyone wanted to meet the first female President of Yale. Hanna Gray was very, very impressive. We were on our way to reach our regional fund raising goal.
Fast forward two years: Dick Lyman won the bet handily, and he collected his winning – a dinner paid for by Hanna Gray – when she left New Haven and became the President of University of Chicago. They dined at a fine Chicago-style pizza restaurant in the Windy City.
The moral of the story is:
“You can take the Stanford out of Yale, but you can’t crowbar the Yale out of Stanford.”
I guess the linkage between these two great institutions will continue long into the future. It is with some irony that I report that the next President of Yale, Peter Salovey, earned two degrees from Stanford and one from Yale. The other moral of the story, might be “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!” Or at least hire a President who has attended both schools.
As Cole Porter would shout, “Boola, Boola!” And Herbert Hoover would echo, “Go, Indians” or the more politically correct, “Go, Trees?”
Stanford A.B. & A.M., Yale Ph.D.