If the Ivy League was the breeding ground for the élites of the American Century, #Stanford is the farm system for #Silicon_Valley.
In 1998, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who were graduate students, showed Hennessy their work on search software that they later called #Google. He typed in the name Gerhard Casper, and instead of getting results for Casper the Friendly Ghost, as he did on AltaVista, up popped links to Gerhard Casper the president of Stanford. He was thrilled when members of the engineering faculty mentored Page and Brin and later became Google investors, consultants, and shareholders. Since Stanford owned the rights to Google’s search technology, he was also thrilled when, in 2005, the stock grants that Stanford had received in exchange for licensing the technology were sold for three hundred and thirty-six million dollars.
In 1999, after Condoleezza Rice stepped down as provost to become the chief foreign-policy adviser to the Republican Presidential candidate George W. Bush, Casper offered Hennessy the position of chief academic and financial officer of the university. Soon afterward, Hennessy induced a former electrical-engineering faculty colleague, James Clark, who had founded Silicon Graphics (which purchased MIPS), to give a hundred and fifty million dollars to create the James H. Clark Center for medical and scientific research. Less than a year later, Casper stepped down as president and Hennessy replaced him.
Hennessy joined Cisco’s corporate board in 2002, and Google’s in 2004. It is not uncommon for a university president to be on corporate boards. According to James Finkelstein, a professor at George Mason University’s School of Public Policy, a third of college presidents serve on the boards of one or more publicly traded companies. Hennessy says that his outside board work has made him a better president. “Both Google and Cisco face—and all companies in a high-tech space face—a problem that’s very similar to the ones universities face: how do they maintain a sense of innovation, of a willingness to do the new thing?” he says.