Jon Kennedy
Jon Kennedy

Jon Kennedy's 'Postcards from
the Nanty Glo in My Mind'

Stanford memories

I'm in a nostalgic mood as I write today's Jonal, so I'll use Monday's quick tour of the Stanford University campus with the Home Page "Gerichicks" as a springboard to reflect a little about the part of my life that I lived at Stanford. By way of background, Stanford University is approximately halfway between California's third- and fourth-largest cities, San Jose and San Francisco. Founded in 1891 by former California Governor Leland Stanford and his wife Jane Lathrop Stanford in memory of their son who died of typhoid fever at age 15, the campus occupies about 500 acres of the 8,000-acre property near Palo Alto that was the Stanfords' ranch or "farm."

Leland Stanford had been the founding president of the Central Pacific Railroad which famously spanned the continent from Chicago to the San Francisco Bay by way of the Rocky and Sierra Nevada mountains and made its founding investors immensely wealthy. After the tragic death of their only son, the former Republican Governor told his wife, "California's children will be our children," and to that end they put up the first $5 million toward construction of the West's major university, on their "farm."

A few of the beautiful campus buildings seen from atop the Hoover Tower, looking east. High rise buildings in the distance are in Palo Alto, and on the horizon is the San Francisco Bay.

After my ordination in New Jersey as a Presbyterian youth minister in 1967, in the spring of 1968 I married my college sweetheart and at the end of that summer we took a temporary pastoring position in a small church in Santa Barbara, expressly because the church members thought I'd be able to develop a campus ministry at the University of California campus there. That grew quickly and it afforded the opportunity for me to take my graduate degree (M.A.) at UCLA, a 100-mile commute each way from Santa Barbara. I loved both the Santa Barbara area (I still consider it the most beautiful city in the contiguous 48 states) but my travels to distribute our literature and take the pulse of the university world in those years found me being drawn to Stanford.

Being private and exclusive ("expensive") made Stanford a less violent campus than UCSB and UCLA in the Vietnam War years. And though I loved Santa Barbara's nearly perpetual summer weather, my wife missed the changing seasons of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, so we made the move more than 300 miles north where there are at least three discernible seasons. We found a house in Palo Alto and also found that we could get an on-campus office at Stanford, something we weren't eligible for in ministry at Santa Barbara. I fell in love with Stanford and thrived in its more open and more scholarly academic atmosphere, finding myself teaching a series of on-campus credit-earning courses and seminars by my second year there. A university academic program even asked me to put together a credit course on the "Jesus People" revival movement of the early 1970s, which of course was just down my alley.

To be continued.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy


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