A lady in faded dress and her husband, dressed in a threadbare suit, walked
in without an appointment into the office of the President of the most
prestigious educational institution in America. The secretary frowned at
them and said, ``He will be busy all day.'' ``We will wait,'' said the
The secretary ignored them for hours hoping they will go away. But they did
not. Finally, the secretary decided to disturb the President, hoping they
will go away quickly once they meet him.
The President took one look at the faded dress and glared sternly at them.
The lady said, ``Our son studied here and he was very happy. A year ago, he
was killed in an accident. My husband and I would like to erect a memorial
for him on the campus.''
The President was not touched. He was shocked. ``Madam, we cannot put up a
statue for every student of ours who died. This place will look like a
``Oh, no,'' the lady explained quickly, ``we don't want to erect a statue.
We thought we would give a building to you.''
``A building?'' exclaimed the President, looking at their worn out clothes.
``Do you have any idea how much a building costs? Our buildings cost close
to ten million dollars!'' The lady was silent. The President was pleased and
thought this would get rid of them.
The lady looked at her husband. ``If that is what it costs to start a
university, why don't we start our own?'' Her husband nodded. Mr. and Mrs.
Leland Stanford walked away, traveling to Palo Alto, California, where they
established the University as a memorial to their son, bearing their name -
the Stanford University.
The story goes that this is how Stanford University began.
as told by Azim Premji to Graduating Students at IIT, Chennai on the occasion of 38th Convocation!