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HomeFact-CheckingFALSE: This is not the real tale of how Stanford University began

FALSE: This is not the real tale of how Stanford University began

Both thee Stanford and Harvard magazines have dismissed the Stanford birth tale.

tale purporting to explain how Stanford University began that is circulating on Facebook is FALSE

The tale claims that the United States-based university started after a couple named Mr and Mrs Leland Stanford’s request to erect a memorial of their son at Harvard University was declined. The couple were shabbily dressed when they went to see the Harvard University president the claim states and the secretary at Harvard tried to brush them off down upon them, and she told them that they could not see the president because he would be busy all day. But the couple did not grow weary of waiting.

“Maybe if you see them for a few minutes they will leave,’’ the secretary allegedly told the Harvard president.

The couple told the Harvard president that they had a son who studied in that institution for a year and loved it, but unfortunately, he was killed a year ago. The couple added that they wanted to erect a memorial building at Harvard in his honour.

“A building! Do you have any earthly idea how much a building costs? We have over seven and half million dollars in the physical building here at Harvard!’’ the Harvard president told the couple.

The lady allegedly turned to her husband and told him if that’s the only amount it takes to start a university, why don’t they just start their own institution?

“Mr and Mrs Leland Stanford got up and walked away, travelling to Palo Alto, California, where they established the University that bears their name:- Stanford University, a memorial to a son Harvard no longer cared about,” the tale claims.

But is that how Stanford University began? We checked.

Stanford Magazine, published by the alumni association of Stanford University, debunked the viral tale saying that “the account, of course, is wrong — and, in places, absurd”.

The magazine clarified that Mr and Mrs Leland Stanford’s son, Leland Jr, never attended Harvard University and died at the age of 15 due to typhoid.

“His parents did visit Harvard President Charles Eliot, but only to get advice on how to endow a university,” the article in the Stanford Magazine clarified.

The magazine continued to say that it is absurd to state that Mr and Mrs Stanford would show up at Harvard shabbily dressed because the former California senator was a wealthy railroad baron.

Harvard University equally reiterated that the tale is untrue and unfounded.

“It’s a canard … Let there be an end to Harvardians wilting in confusion,” Harvard Magazine wrote in an article.

So if the tale doing rounds is false, what is the real story behind the birth of Stanford University?

Stanford University website states that Mr and Mrs Stanford decided to build the institution as a memorial to their son.

“When railroad magnate and former California Gov. Leland Stanford and his wife, Jane Lathrop Stanford, lost their only child, Leland, Jr., to typhoid in 1884, they decided to build a university as the most fitting memorial, and deeded to it a large fortune that included the 8,180-acre Palo Alto stock farm that became the campus,” the Stanford University website states.

PesaCheck has looked into a tale circulating on Facebook claiming to explain how Stanford University began and finds it to be FALSE.

This post is part of an ongoing series of PesaCheck fact-checks examining content marked as potential misinformation on Facebook and other social media platforms.

By partnering with Facebook and similar social media platforms, third-party fact-checking organisations like PesaCheck are helping to sort fact from fiction. We do this by giving the public deeper insight and context to posts they see in their social media feeds.

Have you spotted what you think is fake or false information on Facebook? Here’s how you can report. And, here’s more information on PesaCheck’s methodology for fact-checking questionable content.

This fact-check was written by PesaCheck fact-checker Naomi Wanjiku and edited by PesaCheck chief copy editor Rose Lukalo. The article was approved for publication by PesaCheck’s acting managing editor Doreen Wainainah.

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