Jon Kennedy
Jon Kennedy

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

Stanford memoir II

Continuing the memoir begun here on Wednesday about my years at Stanford University.

The university opened in 1891 and former Governor Leland Stanford died two years later. Mrs. Stanford, who had stayed in the background up until then, had to take the reins of the fledgling institution, which faced a financial crisis with the death of its benefactor, his estate in escrow and not available for the widow's use for months later. She rose to the occasion and though there was a time of struggle, the university survived and thrived. Her best known contribution to the campus is its architectural gem, the Stanford Memorial Church, a cathedral-style nondenominational facility in the Spanish Mediterranean pattern seen throughout the campus. Though the university had no affiliation with any church, it did pay the salary of a fulltime "Dean of the Chapel" who was also a university vice president when I arrived there, and Stanford encouraged all types of religious organizations by providing office space and co-ordinating programs. This proved greatly beneficial to my Christian studies program when I moved it from the less accepting state-run University of California Santa Barbara.

Stanford Memorial Church, the gem of the campus and its main tourist attraction, was destroyed by both the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and again in the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. Now completely restored, it is the site of weddings throughout the year. It was given to the university by Mrs. Jane Lathrop Stanford after her husband's death.

We arrived before school started in September 1972. We had to find a student to be our "member" so our organization would be official, though we were not really a membership-type of ministry (publishing and teaching Christian studies courses and apologetic literature). Finding a student "member" proved to be no great hurdle (I asked of friends on campus I met through Peninsula Bible Church; they suggested a name or several, and I believe the first one I asked was willing to associate with us in that capacity). We also found a faculty sponsor in Richard Bube, the best known evangelical professor there at the time (and one of the leaders in his field, materials science). Within a few months our Christian studies program had developed its first courses, on Minorities in the Media and Pluralism for Social Change, which were adopted within an accredited extra-curricular adjunct to the regular university course catalog. Dr. Bube and Dr. Lewis Spitz, a well-known Lutheran historian on the Stanford faculty, sponsored that and other courses I developed. Though they were officially responsible for my course content, there was never a call on them to back me up from the widely diverse student base my courses drew.

The house that was "miraculously" provided (I use the quotation marks because I am loathe to use that word loosely...but to this day I have no "rational" explanation of how we got it), close to campus in a tree-shaded Palo Alto Street, had five bedrooms and three bathrooms for our then three-member family, so we quickly filled the extra rooms with students from Christian campuses across the country (notably Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Mich.; Dordt College, Sioux Center, Iowa, and Geneva College, Beaver Falls, Pa.).

My greatest dreams were being realized, and I hoped to stay at Stanford until retirement time. But though our family also added two more members in our first three years there (sons Michael and Kevin), the marriage was always shaky and eventually my wife left it. Though these days there are divorced ministers even in evangelical circles, I wouldn't consider continuing ministry in that state, so I resigned Religion at Stanford in 1983 after the best 11 years of my life.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy


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In the '60's, people took "acid" to make the world weird. Now the world is weird and people take Prozac to make it normal.

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Thought for today

Engineering is a great profession. There is the satisfaction of watching a figment of the imagination emerge through the aid of science to a plan on paper. Then it moves to realisation in stone or metal or energy. Then it brings homes to men or women. Then it elevates the standard of living and adds to the comforts of life. This is the engineer's high privilege.

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