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Founders

History of the Founders' Celebration

Founders’ Celebration commemorates the founding of the University and the legacy of the Stanford family. Senator Stanford originally instated Founders’ Day in 1891 (then referred to as "Memorial Day" and susequently "Founders' Day") to honor the founding of the University and Leland Stanford, Jr. After Senator Stanford’s death in 1893, the focus of the celebration shifted to honor the senator himself. Over the years, this day has retained its original intent of honoring the Stanfords and has expanded to encompass an evolving conception of the University.

Speakers such as William James (1906) and Wallace Stegner (1991) have commemorated the contributions of the Stanfords since the inception of the Founders’ Celebration events. More recently students have been asked to participate in the festivities by writing about what the founding of the University means to them. Founders’ Celebration is an opportunity for all members of the Stanford community—students, faculty, and staff—together with members of neighboring communities to join in celebration of the success of Jane and Leland Stanford’s dream to establish a "university of high degree."

Want To Know More?

 Explore the history of the Stanford family by visiting the links below:

Did You Know?

  • Leland Stanford was elected Governor of the State of California at age 37.
  • Leland Stanford was 44 years of age and Jane was 39 when Leland Stanford, Jr. was born.
  • Leland Jr.’s name was originally Leland DeWitt Stanford. The boy later took the name Leland Stanford Jr.
  • The first showing of "motion pictures" took place in Leland and Jane Stanford’s Palo Alto home in 1879. Eadweard Muybridge used his "zoopraxiscope" to project images from rotating glass disks in rapid succession to give the impression of motion.
  • During the heyday of the Palo Alto Stock Farm Leland Stanford sold a horse (an offspring of Electioneer, the leading sire of the Palo Alto Stock Farm) to J. Malcolm Forbes for what at the time was the highest price ever paid for a trotter. The price was estimated to be around $100,000.
  • His parents from an early age encouraged Leland Jr.’s interest in history, mathematics, and engineering. He built a miniature-working railroad near the family home at the Palo Alto Stock Farm.
  • Leland Jr. collected artifacts and antiquities during his travels. These items were to be the nucleus of a museum he planned to establish someday in San Francisco. In fact his collection formed the basis of the museum established on campus.
  • Leland Jr.’s original resting place was not at the Mausoleum but at a site over near the old Children’s Hospital/Ronald McDonald House where the Stanfords’ home was located.
  • When Leland Sr.’s estate was tied up in probate Jane Stanford was granted $10,000 a month by the court for maintenance of her several households. She reduced her expenses and gave all but $350 to President Jordan to pay faculty salaries and fund operations in order to keep the University open.
  • Jane Stanford served as President of the Board of Trustees.