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Wallace Sterling

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Wallace Sterling
5th President of Stanford University
In office
April 1, 1949 – September 1, 1968
Preceded byClarence Faust (Acting)
Succeeded byRobert Glaser (Acting)
Personal details
John Ewart Wallace Sterling

August 6, 1906
Linwood, Ontario, Canada
DiedJuly 1, 1985(1985-07-01) (aged 78)
Woodside, California, U.S.[1]
SpouseAnna Maria Shaver
Alma materUniversity of Toronto (BA)
University of Alberta (MA)
Stanford University (PhD)

John Ewart Wallace Sterling (August 6, 1906 – July 1, 1985) was an American educator who served as the 5th President of Stanford University between 1949 and 1968.[2]

Life and career


Sterling was born in Linwood, Ontario, the son of Annie (née Wallace) and William Sterling, a Methodist clergyman.[3][4] He pursued his undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto[5] and received a Master of Arts degree from the University of Alberta.[6]

He began his doctoral studies in history at Stanford University in 1932, serving on the research staff of the Hoover Institution. He received a Ph.D. in 1938 with a dissertation on "Diplomacy and the newspaper press in Austria Hungary, Midsummer 1914." It was never published.[7] He joined the faculty of the California Institute of Technology. In 1948, he left Caltech to head the Huntington Library and Art Gallery and shortly afterward was offered the Stanford presidency.

Sterling was married to Anna Maria Shaver.

Stanford presidency


During his 20-year term as president he oversaw the growth of Stanford from a financially troubled regional university to a financially sound, internationally recognized academic powerhouse, "the Harvard of the West". Achievements during his tenure included:

  • Moving the Stanford Medical School from a small, inadequate campus in San Francisco to a new facility on the Stanford campus which was fully integrated into the university to an unusual degree for medical schools.
  • Establishing the Stanford Industrial Park (now the Stanford Research Park) and the Stanford Shopping Center on leased University land, thus stabilizing the university's finances. The Stanford Industrial Park, together with the university's aggressive pursuit of government research grants, helped to spur the development of Silicon Valley.
  • Increasing the number of students receiving financial aid from less than 5% when he took office to more than one-third when he retired.
  • Increasing the size of the student body from 8,300 to 11,300 and the size of the tenured faculty from 322 to 974.
  • Launching the PACE fundraising program, the largest such program ever undertaken by any university up to that time.
  • Launching a building boom on campus that included a new bookstore, post office, student union, dormitories, a faculty club, and many academic buildings.
  • Creating the Overseas Campus program for undergraduates in 1958.

In 2022, Stanford University issued a public apology for its discrimination against Jewish applicants in the 1950s, which was documented through internal memos involving Sterling.[8]


  • On March 2, 2015, Stanford Archives posted 444 images of Sterling and his papers to its Flickr stream.[9]
  • An Indian rubber tree (Ficus elastica cv. doescheri), which he planted at the opening of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa's Sinclair Library, is listed by the UHM Campus Arboretum as the J. E. Wallace Sterling Namesake Tree.[10]

See also



  1. ^ "Former Stanford President Wallace Sterling Dies at 78". Retrieved November 26, 2023.
  2. ^ Susan W. Schofield (November 9, 2023). "Memorial Resolution: J. E. Wallace Sterling" (PDF). Stanford Historical Society. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 22, 2016. Retrieved April 3, 2008.
  3. ^ "Ex-Stanford President Wallace Sterling Dies". July 3, 1985. Retrieved October 15, 2013.
  4. ^ "Current Biography Yearbook". 1951.
  5. ^ "Former Stanford First Lady Ann Sterling dies at 85". Stanford News Service. August 12, 1991. Retrieved April 3, 2008.
  6. ^ "New Trail" (PDF). University of Alberta Alumni Affairs. Spring 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 17, 2012. Retrieved May 31, 2008.
  7. ^ J. E. Wallace Sterling, "Diplomacy and the newspaper press in Austria Hungary, Midsummer 1914." (ProQuest Dissertations Publishing,  1938. 0136421).
  8. ^ Jaschik, Scott (October 13, 2022). "Stanford Admits to Anti-Jewish Admissions Bias in '50s". Inside Higher Education.
  9. ^ "Sterling (J.E. Wallace) Personal Papers (SC0415) - an album on Flickr". Archived from the original on April 2, 2015.
  10. ^ "UH Mānoa · Namesake Trees". manoa.hawaii.edu. Retrieved September 12, 2018.

Further reading

  • Nilan, Roxanne L., and Cassius L. Kirk Jr. Stanford's Wallace Sterling: Portrait of a Presidency 1949-1968 (Stanford Up, 2023), a major scholarly history. see description
Academic offices
Preceded by
Clarence Faust (Acting)
President of Stanford University
April 1, 1949–September 1, 1968
Succeeded by
Robert Glaser (Acting)