Nerd Nation: Continuing the Tradition of Athletic and Academic Excellence with Bernard Muir

Good to be with you! Today feels like game
day. I woke up this morning and was a little nervous. Had a nice meal. Thought, “gosh,
I can’t wait to get in here!” Amongst a group of our closest friends, been a while, been
a month that we’ve been together at our annual meeting. I just tell you, I love Pasadena.
Love it so much. I know that you’re going to get a chance to visit with Coach Shaw later
today and let me just tell you – just plant a little seed – there’s a playoff next year.
College football is going to change its format. There’ll be no more BCS, and I hear some claps
for that. And there’ll be a fourteen playoff. The semi-finals, guess where they are? One
of them is in Pasadena. So you might ask a question – I’m not trying to prompt anybody
to say anything to Coach Shaw but – you might ask a question, “Coach, what’s the goal for
next year?” Might be in Pasadena. I wanted to spend a little time to talk to you about
the incredible things going on at Stanford from an athletics standpoint. These kids are
truly incredible. When we talk about balance of both the academics and the athletics. It
is so important as we start to recruit kids earlier and earlier. Now, I have some images
of some former student athletes that wore the cardinal uniform and some of them might
have been in the news of late, some of them you might recognize. And I know there have
been varying views for some of the things that might have been said post-game. We’re
not going to get into that. Because what I’m trying to say is basically – show you – is
that it doesn’t matter what your views are. That Stanford prepares you to be a leader
in your community. And certainly Richard has gotten a lot of publicity. No question about
that. But if you look, there’s a couple of people that have gotten publicity too that
were just as vocal in their careers. But we’re so proud of what these people have been able
to accomplish. One thing I’ve learned quickly is that they’re never satisfied. And I think
about the moments in my short time here – I’m starting my sophomore year, if you will and
let me tell you it’s better than being a freshman. But I think about the moments that have stood
out, obviously the Rose Bowl. Every time we have a chance to compete, we have a chance
to bring the community together. And we’ve done that! When you have thirty thousand strong
on New Years Day, it’s just so impressive. But there have been various moments throughout
the course of my short term here on the farm that I will never forget. One, when I think
about being never satisfied, I think about a water polo tournament – a woman’s water
polo team played in the national championship in Boston last year. We lost a grueling game
against a team that I will not name that is nearby. It was a quadruple overtime game.
Yeah, it was difficult. John Tanner, our woman’s water polo coach long time hall-of-famer,
said to me “Bernard, you’ll never guess what happened. Our junior class got the second
place championship trophy. They came to me and said, ‘coach, we want to have that trophy
in our locker room this year as a reminder to us every single day that this will never
happen again.'” That’s resilience. It’s about commitment. And when I think about Stanford
and about this recruiting process. How lucky we are to bring young people to campus and
that is truly the key. When we have the young person or perspective athlete and their parents,
it can be truly magical. I heard the question earlier from Gabrielle, the seventh grader.
Now, we are starting to recruit earlier and earlier. Gabrielle, I’m just saying I hope
that you have a great success, you listen to what President Hennessy says, but if you
happen to play a sport please call me. Shania Gumice, a senior on our women’s basketball
team. Now most student athletes across the country will be concentrating on this program
year round. Our student athletes, many say this is like a full time job, they do spend
quite a bit of time, hours upon hours, learning their craft. Shania, last year, finishing
her junior year, said to her Coach Tara Vanderveer, “Coach, I really want to explore the world.
I’m an international relations major. I really want to go out and I want to go to where my
familys from, in Nigeria, and give back.” Now Coach could’ve given a typical answer
and say, “You know what, Shania, we want you to concentrate on your basketball.” But this
is Stanford. And Shania took her time during the summer quarter and she went to Nigeria
and gave back to the community. Shania is a phenomenal student athlete. She’s embracing
everything that Stanford has to offer and in fact she had over twenty points last week
in a game again Cal. Tomorrow we play Cal again in womens basketball at Cal and we will
expect the same result. I will tell you that our student athletes, like Shania, are truly
doing something that’s inspiring and giving back to the community. I have this picture
of the late Miles Brand whose the president of Indiana University and then became president
of the NCAA and Miles had a chance to meet somebody that we know and love, Howard Wolf,
at a convention. And they sat down for breakfast and Miles turned to Howard and says, “You
know what? Heard you were from Stanford. Let me just tell you with all the articles that
are out there, all the hub-bub if you will, about inter-collegiate athletics, we need
the NCAA a place like Stanford to lead. We truly need a program that does it right. It
really treats student athletes as student athletes.” And I think about the Stanford
moments in my short time, if we fast forward on the farm, and I had the chance to visit
with the current NCAA president, Mark Emmert, who came into my office and said, “Listen,
Bernard, we need Stanford. We need them now more than ever. Because their are issues out
there affecting inter-collegiate athletes and we need you to lead. Now, there’s this
term now that’s kind of hip. Many of you folks back in the day, when you heard the term “nerd”
you cringed. Now, Nerd Nation is about being hip and it’s cool. We got tee shirts all over
the place, we’re loving life. But don’t take my word for it as an administrator, let’s
listen to our student athletes. Nerd Nation is the embodiment of Stanford pride. Whether
you’re a student, faculty member, athlete, fan, alumni – if you love Stanford, you’re
a part of Nerd Nation. It’s just really emphasizing the fact that we’re really student athletes
and we’re working hard and we’re nerds in the classroom, and football nerds as well.
After games you’ll see kids just asking for autographs and talking about how cool you
are and you realize that they look up to you as a big time role model. You can be good
in the classroom and with your athletics is a message that a lot of kids need to hear.
We also support each other. We’re one community and we like to show we’re proud of being a
nerd. We’re proud of being hard working students and hard working athletes. We really take
pride in being nerds and being great at athletics as well. Now these kids compete on a high
level. You know, where else do you have a leadership group or leadership program where
you put in these hours and then win or loose you get up the next day and compete at the
highest level. And regardless of the outcome of the game, but I’m told I was supposed to
take my cell phone and turn it off. I just want you to know that before I walked out
here, we’re up ten against Arizona State in men’s basketball. With seven minutes to play.
But the bottom line is we’re supposed to have fun. And you can see it from the pictures
here that it’s about the experience. And then also making sure you do what you need to do
in the classroom. Making sure that kids truly walk out of here with a Stanford degree. And
you can see from the PAC 12, our brethren there, there averages – I won’t point out
some schools there with the lower scores – but you look at some of these schools and they
would be considered across the PAC 12 as being okay on the national average. Then you look
at Stanford. And you remember why we’re doing what we’re doing and make sure we have the
best experience possible. I’ve had a number of people come to me in the last couple of
weeks representing other institutions that say, “Bernard, how are you doing this Nerd
Nation thing? How does that resonate with the rest of the student body? Tell me that
these kids are getting in and doing something differently than the general student?” And
you can see from this chart that top majors for our students are very similar to the top
majors for our student athletes. We talk about our leadership. The coaches truly who are
representing the top leadership program in the country and we think about what they give
back and here’s a short quote from Coach Shaw. It’s truly about recruiting and retaining
the best coaching leadership in the country. And I do put an emphasis on Coach Shaw’s picture
up there on retaining. Retention is key. And then with that comes exposure. When you have
success, like we’re experiencing in the LA Times, or the Sports Illustrated’s of the
world, it’s about building our brand and building it in a way that’s really supportive of all
nine hundred student athletes that we have on this campus. Nine hundred unique stories
to tell and our responsibility is to make sure we tell it in an appropriate fashion.
You know, last year, I will never forget my first year on campus, having the opportunity
to be a part of this program and I was told that this was the nineteenth opportunity for
us to win the directors cup. Which measures how well you do in the post season. This is
the nineteenth year in a row that we could win it. And it looked bleak. The school across
the way from UCLA was nipping at our heels and I was also told that we had won this national
championship thirty six years in a row and it looked like it was in jeopardy. Let me
tell you, every day I embrace our women’s tennis coach because they ended up winning
the national championship last year to keep that streak alive and now we’re on to looking
at the twentieth directors cup this year. You look at how you embrace media, you look
at how you embrace Stanford, you remember these days, at least some of you. Some say,
“Bernard, you’re too young to remember the black and white TV’s.” And that’s not true.
But now we have an opportunity to really have the medium in which we can celebrate Stanford
to the n’th degree and we’re taking every opportunity. Whether it be on our mobile phone,
or on the computer, or listening to the PAC 12 networks, which hopefully many of you have,
which I now effectively call the “Cardinal Channel”. There’s and opportunity for us to
celebrate the best that Stanford has to offer. I leave you with this final note: I think
of a story of Miles Unterreiner, who is a cross country runner who graduated last year.
Miles had two things to worry about towards the end of his career. One, he got a note
saying he has competed, he has earned his right to go compete in Louisville for the
National Championship. And at the same time, that same weekend, he had the right to get
a letter to say you can compete for a Rhodes Scholarship. Now think about it, which one
would you chose? Rhodes Scholarship? Or go compete for the National Championship? At
other places, they would say choose one or the other. Miles, because it’s Stanford, was
able to choose both. Thanks to the generosity of a donor, Miles flew to Seattle where he
conducted his interview, then got on a private plane and went to Louisville to compete for
the National Championship. Miles did not win the National Championship, nor did he win
the Rhodes Scholarship that weekend, but he did come back and say, “Bernard, that private
jet was kind of cool.” But fast forward a little bit before there and this past fall,
Miles, because of dedication, perseverance and never giving up, won the Rhodes Scholar.
It’s that same perseverance that we now take as administrators and coaches to make sure
that our kids have the opportunity to never give up and represent Stanford so well and
for that we say thank you and Go Card!

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