The Men of DU » David Starr Jordan ’72 / First President of Stanford University

David Starr Jordan '72 / First President of Stanford University

David Starr Jordan

When Jane and Leland Stanford selected the first president for their new university, founded in the memory of their son, they turned to David Starr Jordan, president of Indiana University and one of the nation’s most influential educators. Leland Stanford traveled to Bloomington to personally offer Jordan the position. His influence on Stanford is still felt today: Jordan Hall sits on its main quad, and the university’s motto, chosen by Jordan, is found on its seal.


Jordan is only one of two individuals to receive an honorary degree from Cornell. They are exceptions to Cornell’s tradition of not awarding them that dates back to the university’s first commencement. The awards to Jordan and Andrew D. White, many years later, was controversial, as a recent Daily Sun article explained:

“Historically, Cornell has only granted two honorary degrees, one to White and another to David Starr Jordan 1872, the first president of Stanford. The two degrees, which were law doctorates, were bestowed by then-President Charles Adams, who was unfamiliar with precedent set by White.

“In response to Adams’s departure from traditional University policy, Cornell alumni presented a petition to the faculty in 1886 ‘praying for a reconsideration of the action in regard to conferring honorary degrees.’ Jordan, one of the degree recipients, signed the petition. Shortly afterwards, Adams was forced to resign in 1892.”

In the legions of accomplished Cornell DUs, let alone Cornellians, David Starr Jordan ranks near the top. The images that follow present snapshots of the life of one of our greatest alumni.

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