Stanford has had a powerful impact on my lifeBy Jerry Yang February 20, 2013, 4:54 pm
Editor’s note: Jerry Yang, '90, MS '90, co-founded (with David Filo, MS '90) Yahoo! Inc., where he held a range of leadership roles, including CEO, over the course of 17 years. In addition to the Yahoo! board of directors, Jerry has served on the boards of a range companies and non-profits, including Cisco Systems, Alibaba, Yahoo! Japan, and the Asian Pacific Fund of San Francisco. He and his wife, Akiko Yamazaki, BS '90, have two children. Stanford service highlights: Stanford University Board of Trustees (current vice chair and development committee chair); The Stanford Challenge Executive Committee; Campaign for Undergraduate Education Executive Committtee (co-chair); Think Again (co-chair); School of Engineering Advisory Council; Class of 1990 Reunion Campaign (co-chair for 10th, 15th, and 20th reunions).
By Jerry Yang
I was raised in San Jose, California. I always wanted to attend Stanford but thought it was financially out of reach. I applied for undergraduate admission, knowing that I was likely to go to a public university where it was much more affordable. When I was admitted to Stanford, the university was able to offer me a financial aid package that made it possible for me to attend. The other attractive factor was that an undergrad didn't have to declare a major until junior year, so I thought I could really explore my various academic interests (although I ended up in electrical engineering anyway, I had many great classes in humanities and social sciences that I otherwise wouldn't have taken!). Thanks to the Stanford admissions and financial aid office, it turned out to be a great decision for me!
It’s hard for me to say what the best part of my overall Stanford experience has been since I spent 9 years there—4 years as an undergraduate and nearly 5 years in graduate school. Certainly, the campus, residential environment, the friends that I've made, and the amazing experiences at the university are all unforgettable. The academics and professors are world-class. There are so many unique things about my experience at Stanford. I met my wife, Akiko, in Kyoto, Japan, while I was studying on the Stanford campus there. And I started Yahoo! with David Filo and many Stanford friends in 1994. You can say that Stanford has singularly impacted my life in a most powerful way!
As an undergraduate, we learned quickly as freshmen at Branner Hall how to be football fans! From the waning years of head coach Jack Elway, to Denny Green, then (Bill) Walsh’s second stint, then Tyrone Willingham, there were many great—and some not so great—moments of Stanford football. But I also loved attending men’s and women’s basketball at Maples Pavilion, where I witnessed some unforgettable games.
I’ve been a longtime fan and supporter of Stanford Athletics. In recent years, I've donated to various projects, including the new football stadium, and have been an avid supporter of the Buck/Cardinal Club. I've been able to see firsthand the commitment Stanford has to athletics, and have admired the work and dedication of the great coaches and staff in the athletic department in fitting into the overall mission of Stanford University.
It’s difficult for me to choose a single favorite Stanford sports memory or athlete because there have been so many. I remember watching student-athletes like Todd Lichti playing in Maples in the late ’80s. He went all-out every game and left everything on the floor. What a great competitor! But my favorite moment was watching Casey Jacobsen beat then #1 Duke at the Arena in Oakland in the Pete Newell Challenge in December of 2000. I had floor seats with Tiger Woods and Jerry Chang, and we all went crazy! The recent football memories are also pretty awesome. The Rose Bowl win was great, and I got to stand on the sidelines for the Orange Bowl win. Another special moment was being an honorary co-captain along with Yahoo! co-founder David Filo for a home game against Notre Dame.
When I think back to my favorite places on campus, I can’t help but note how much it has changed in the 20-plus years since I first set foot there. As a golfer, I love the picturesque 1st and 18th tee boxes at Stanford Golf Course. I also love the peace and serenity inside Memorial Church. Then there are the libraries. The stacks at Green Library were always a fun place to pretend to study! My newest favorite place is of course Y2E2 (the Jerry Yang and Akiko Yamazaki Environment and Energy Building)—a building my wife and I helped build within the new Engineering Quad. It's an exciting place, not only because of the great interdisciplinary research, but also the nice cafe downstairs!
Stanford is unique because it has more than 800 student-athletes. All understand the importance of academics. Through the years, some of the best human beings and smartest people participated in Stanford Athletics. The Buck/Cardinal Club creates the funding to help support not only the "bigger", better-known sports, but all the 35 varsity sports on campus. Stanford has been fortunate to win 18-straight Directors’ Cups, which demonstrates how diverse and talented these student-athletes really are. Athletes care about their Stanford degrees—in 2012 the graduation rate for athletes was over 95 percent. Even just recently, hearing that Tyler Gaffney wants to return to finish his degree is very inspirational!
As l am sure many of you will agree, Stanford student-athletes are a source of great pride. In so many cases, they represent what is so unique about Stanford: a world-class, innovative academic and research institution with world-class athletics! I love being a fan and doing my part to help the program succeed. Stanford athletics really are remarkable and I will continue to root them on.