High-tech star to lead Stanford

April 14, 2000

A computer scientist and engineer who started his own high-tech company and has a record of coaxing huge donations out of California's Silicon Valley has been chosen as the next president of Stanford University.

John Hennessy, a professor of electrical engineering who serves as Stanford's acting provost, will take office on September 1. The current president, constitutional law scholar Gerhard Casper, will return to teaching after a leave of absence.

Dr Hennessy, 47, is the first Stanford president with an engineering background. He has close ties to surrounding Silicon Valley, where he founded a semiconductor company during a sabbatical in 1984.

His appointment was widely seen as underscoring the university's increasing emphasis on high technology. It was also perceived as a means by which Stanford can lure more financial contributions from the fabulously wealthy entrepreneurs who are its neighbours.

Last year, after he was appointed provost, Dr Hennessy set up a record $150 million (Pounds 95 million) donation from Netscape founder James H. Clark. "I have friends in Silicon Valley," said Dr Hennessy, who has acknowledged that fundraising will be a priority for him.

He is independently wealthy, having sold his company to industry giant Silicon Graphics.

With an endowment of more than $4.5 billion, Stanford is one of the United States's wealthiest universities. It has also ards the sciences, in contrast to its east coast rival, Harvard University, which is perceived as tending towards the humanities.

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