March 22, 2020
Yesterday, the path around the Stanford Dish was populated with walkers, the sun was shining, the view across the Bay was clear. And yet, despite the beauty of the California spring, the cautious distance of each group was a reminder of the extraordinary times in which we are living. I have been writing each Sunday with information about the school’s rapid actions to confront the crisis. With the first weeks behind us, I want to take this opportunity to reflect on our shared situation, and to express my appreciation and gratitude for the GSB community.
It has been almost two months since our first difficult decision, to cancel the GSB’s wonderful exchange program with Tsinghua University. Since then, we have faced the disappointment of losing the traditional experience of spring quarter, long-planned events, and even commencement. The world looks less friendly to students looking ahead to the job market, and to those of us anxious about family members. All of us are deeply concerned about the health and economic costs being borne across the country and the world.
In the midst of this uncertainty and anxiety, I have been inspired continually by the resilience and creativity of GSB students, faculty, staff, and alumni. To share just a few examples: a group of students, “Team Positivity Contagion,” has organized dozens of virtual community-building events. Faculty members Jann Spiess and Guido Imbens have created a virtual seminar series for hundreds of economists and statisticians across the country. Our alumnus Tomas Pueyo has been writing compelling articles about strategies to confront the pandemic.
This week, having been assigned a desk in the Levin family “shelter-in-place” office allocation, I communicated via Zoom and email with hundreds of members of the GSB family. I spoke to our faculty who are rethinking their teaching with remarkable speed and camaraderie, and proposing ways for Stanford to lead the nation in fighting the virus. I spoke to our Student Association presidents whose commitment to their peers is unmatched, and to staff members who are learning new ways to work, and finding creative ways to support online teaching. I talked to our graduate Rishi Sunak, the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is spearheading Britain’s efforts to fight off a recession. I had daily meetings with leaders across the university, who have risen to the occasion exactly as one would hope.
At a time of crisis, people look to Stanford as a model of what it means to be a great institution. In the past week, I have never felt more proud of the people on this campus. Let me take this opportunity to express my gratitude. We do not get to choose our circumstances, but we do get to choose our actions. In this historic moment, I am excited to see what together we will accomplish, and contribute to the world.
It has been thirty years since I started running around the Stanford Dish as a first-quarter freshman. I certainly cannot recall any day that felt like this weekend. We now know that things will get worse before they get better, and that normalcy will not return for some time. That should not prevent us from thinking ahead. There will be a day when the sun shines, and we are no longer worried about coronavirus. We know that the world will be different, and it is not too soon to start thinking about the changes, what we will have learned, and how we will be stronger for the experience.
Philip H. Knight Professor and Dean