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. The Arts at Stanford also experienced a renaissance during his tenure with a new concert hall, a new home for Art and Art History, and the addition of the Anderson Collection.
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 by cofounding MIPS Computer Systems, which had an initial public offering in 1989. In 1998 he cofounded Atheros Communications a pioneer in WiFi technology and served as Chair of the Board until 2010. He is also the coauthor (with David Patterson) of two internationally used textbooks on computer architecture.
Hennessy was the inaugural Willard R. and Inez Kerr Bell Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and served as chair of Computer Science, dean of the School of Engineering, and university provost, before being inaugurated as Stanford’s 10th president. He currently serves on the board of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Cisco Systems, and Alphabet (Google’s parent company), where is currently chair of the board.
His honors include the 2012 Medal of Honor of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, its highest award; the 2017 ACM Turing Prize (with David Patterson), it’s highest award; the 2000 John von Neumann Medal; 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. He is an elected member or Fellow of the National Academy of Engineering, the Royal Academy of Engineering, The National Academy of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. Hennessy earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Villanova University and his master’s and doctoral degrees in computer science from the Stony Brook University, as well as ten honorary doctorates.