This pedestrian and bicycle mall—between Stanford’s Oval and the Quad—was renamed for Jane Elizabeth Lathrop Stanford in October 2019, and is the first major feature on campus to honor her. Jane co-founded the university in 1885 with her husband, Leland Stanford. The Stanfords wanted to honor the memory of their only child, Leland Junior, who was 15 years old when he died of typhoid in 1884. At the university’s opening in 1891, Jane wrote: “It was born in sorrow but has now become a great joy to our hearts.”
The university opened in 1891 with about 555 students. Stanford was unusual for its time, as it was nondenominational and admitted both men and women from all backgrounds. Shortly after the university’s opening, Leland, who had been a U.S. senator, California governor, and president of the Central Pacific and Southern Pacific Railroads, died. This led to a season of financial instability for Stanford and Jane used her personal funds to support the university until the assets of Leland’s estate were released from probate.
Jane played an active role in the university’s affairs, focusing financial resources on the physical plant and exerting a profound influence on university matters until her death in 1905. Her vision, energy, and resources shaped the institution we know today.
“There is only one failure for you and that is not to be true to the best you know.”— Jane Stanford, 1891
Jane Stanford Way runs across the front of campus from Campus Drive West to Campus Drive East and was formerly named Serra Mall. The university’s official address is 450 Jane Stanford Way. In 2016, the Associated Students of Stanford University passed resolutions asking the university to rename streets and buildings bearing the name of Father Junipero Serra (1713-1784), the leader of the California mission system, citing the system’s harmful impacts on Native Americans. In 2018 the university Board of Trustees accepted committee recommendations to rename three campus landmarks named after Serra, including Serra Mall. Following the committee’s recommendations, Serra Street between Campus Drive East and El Camino Real retains Serra’s name as a reminder of its presence in the university’s history.