As Stanford University’s 10th president, John L. Hennessy led the university’s extraordinary growth in multidisciplinary research and teaching in the 21st century.
Keeping Stanford accessible and affordable to outstanding students was among his priorities, and during his presidency, Stanford’s financial aid program became one of the strongest in the nation.
Throughout his presidency, Hennessy fostered interdisciplinary collaboration, launching university-wide initiatives in human health, environmental sustainability, international affairs and the arts and creativity and greatly expanding opportunities for multidisciplinary teaching and learning. Under his leadership, the campus underwent a physical transformation to support 21st-century research and teaching needs — including cutting-edge facilities for the Graduate School for Business, the Law School, the Science and Engineering Quadrangle, Stanford Medicine and the Arts District.
In early 2016, he announced the Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program, the largest fully endowed graduate-level scholarship program in the world, and after stepping down as president, he became the inaugural Shriram Family Director of the Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program in September 2016. Scholars will receive full funding to pursue a graduate or professional degree in any of Stanford’s seven schools. The focus of their experience will be both knowledge and leadership development — with the goal of preparing a new generation of leaders to make a positive impact on the world.
Hennessy, a pioneer in computer architecture, joined Stanford’s faculty in 1977 as an assistant professor of electrical engineering. In 1981, he drew together researchers to focus on a technology known as RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computer), which revolutionized computing by increasing performance while reducing costs. Hennessy helped transfer this technology to industry. In 1984, he cofounded MIPS Computer Systems, now MIPS Technologies, which designs microprocessors. He rose to full professorship in 1986 and was the inaugural Willard R. and Inez Kerr Bell Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (1987-2004). He has been director of Stanford’s Computer Systems Laboratory (1983-1993); dean of the School of Engineering (1996-2000), and university provost (1999-2000). In October 2000, he was inaugurated as Stanford’s 10th president. Throughout his career, Hennessy has multiplied the impact of Stanford’s great minds by fostering interdisciplinary collaborations, initially in the biosciences and bioengineering and now among 18 interdisciplinary centers drawing from Stanford’s seven schools.
His honors include the 2012 Medal of Honor of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, its highest award; the 2000 Benjamin Garver Lamme Award of the American Society of Electrical Engineers; the 2001 Eckert-Mauchly Award of the Association for Computing Machinery; the 2001 Seymour Cray Computer Engineering Award; a 2004 NEC C&C Prize for lifetime achievement in computer science and engineering, and a 2005 Founders Award from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Hennessy earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Villanova University and his master’s and doctoral degrees in computer science from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
Along with David Patterson, Hennessy won the 2017 Turing Award for their work in developing the reduced instruction set computer (RISC) architecture, which is now used in 99% of new computer chips.
In February 2018, Hennessy was announced as the new Chairman of Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company