A lady in a faded gingham dress and her husband, dressed in a homespun
threadbare suit, stepped off the train in Boston, and walked timidly without an
appointment into the Harvard University President's outer office. The
secretary could tell in a moment that such backwoods, country hicks had no
business at Harvard and probably didn't even deserve to be in Cambridge.
"We want to see the president," the man said softly.
"He'll be busy all day," the secretary snapped.
"We'll wait," the lady replied.
For hours, the secretary ignored them, hoping that the couple would finally
become discouraged and go away. They didn't and the secretary grew
frustrated and finally decided to disturb the president, even though it was a
chore she always regretted. "Maybe! If they just see you for a few minutes,
they'll leave," she told him.
He sighed in exasperation and nodded. Someone of his importance obviously
didn't have the time to spend with them, but he detested gingham dresses
and homespun suits cluttering up his outer office. The president, stern faced
and with dignity, strutted toward the couple.
The lady told him, "We had a son who attended Harvard for one year. He
loved Harvard. He was happy here. But about a year ago, he was accidentally
killed. My husband and I would like to erect a memorial to him, somewhere on
The president wasn't touched.... He was shocked. "Madam," he said, gruffly,
"we can't put up a statue for every person who has attended Harvard and
died. If we did, this place would look like a cemetery."
"Oh, no," the lady explained quickly. "We don't want to erect a statue. We
thought we would like to give a building to Harvard."
The president rolled his eyes. He glanced at the gingham dress and
homespun suit, then exclaimed, "A building! Do you have any earthly idea
how much a building costs? We have over seven and a half million dollars in
the physical buildings here at Harvard."
For a moment the lady was silent.
The president was pleased. Maybe he could get rid of them now.
The lady turned to her husband and said quietly, "Is that all it costs to start a
university? Why don't we just start our own?" Her husband nodded.
The president's face wilted in confusion and bewilderment.
Mr. and Mrs. Leland Stanford got up and walked away, traveling to Palo Alto,
California where they established the university that bears their name, a
memorial to a son that Harvard no longer cared about.

You can easily judge the character of others by how they treat those who
they think can do nothing for them or to them. -- Malcolm Forbes
Harvard ... Far Above All Others