The President of Harvard made a mistake by
prejudging people and it cost him dearly.
A lady in a faded gingham dress and her husband,
dressed in a homespun threadbare suit, stepped off
the train in Boston, and walked timidly without an
appointment into the president's outer office.
The secretary could tell in a moment that such
backwoods, country hicks had no business at Harvard
and probably didn't even deserve to be in
Cambridge. She frowned. "We want to see
the president," the man said softly. "He'll
be busy all day," the secretary snapped.
"We'll wait," the lady replied. For hours the
secretary ignored them, hoping that the couple
would finally become discouraged and go away.
They didn't. And the secretary grew
frustrated and finally decided to disturb
thepresident, even though it was a chore she always
regretted to do.
"Maybe if they just see you for a few minutes,
they'll leave," she told him. And he sighed
in exasperation and nodded. Someone of his
importance obviously didn't have the time to spend
with them, but he detested gingham dresses and
homespun suits cluttering up his outer office.
The president, stern-faced with dignity,
strutted toward the couple. The lady told
him, "We had a son that attended Harvard for one
year. He loved Harvard. He was happy
here. But about a year ago he was
accidentally killed. And my husband and I
would like to erect a memorial to him, somewhere on
campus." The president wasn't touched--he was
"Madam," he said gruffly, "We can't put up a
statue for every person who attended Harvard and
died. If we did, this place would look like a
cemetery." "Oh, no," the lady explained
quickly, "We don't want to erect a statue. We
thought we would like to give a building to
The president rolled his eyes. He glanced
at the gingham dress and homespun suit, then
exclaimed, "A building! Do you have any
earthly idea how much a building costs? We
have over seven and a half million dollars in the
physical plant at Harvard."
For a moment the lady was silent. The
president was pleased. He could get rid of
them now. And the lady turned to her husband
and said quietly, "Is that all it costs to start a
University? Why don't we just start our
own?" Her husband nodded. The
president's face wilted in confusion and
And Mr. and Mrs. Leland Stanford walked away,
traveling to Palo Alto, California where they
established the University that bears their name, a
memorial to a son that Harvard no longer cared