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Three generations of Stanford students

Three generations: Edgar McCormack, Class of 1897; Maria McCormack Hoge, director of Stanford's Office of Inter-American Relations during the 1940s; Carol Magdiel Hoge, '59. Photos Courtesy of Carol Magdiel Hoge.

An Orphan's Granddaughter

How Jane and Leland Stanford Changed One Family

"I was just a tiny child when I arrived at Stanford," says Carol Magdiel Hoge, '59, whose mother joined the university staff when Carol was a toddler. Her earliest memories include ice cream sundaes at the Cellar, swimming in Roble Pool, and playing on the lawn outside her mother's office in the newly built Hoover Tower.

Carol, who recently retired after more than 35 years of teaching in Bay Area public schools, credits those early years on campus with sparking a lifelong love of learning. But she can trace Stanford's influence on her life back even further, all the way to the university's founding.

A New University in California

Edgar "Mac" McCormack—Carol's grandfather—was orphaned at age 4 and grew up in a Texas bunkhouse. He was attending high school in Denver when he heard about a new university in California. Rumor had it the school founded by Leland and Jane Stanford charged no tuition. Edgar rode boxcars to Palo Alto to see for himself, joining the Class of 1897. He lived in Encina Hall, where a young Herbert Hoover was among his friends. For the rest of his life, he would admire the Stanfords—who had lost their own son—for making it possible for people like him to get an education. After graduating with a degree in civil engineering, Edgar's first project was the construction of a waterworks in Cuba. There he met his wife, Josepha. They eventually settled in Washington, DC, with their four daughters.

"Anything for Mac's Daughter"

In 1939, Edgar and Josepha's oldest daughter, Maria, was recently divorced, caring for 1-year-old Carol, and looking for a fresh start. Edgar had passed away the year before, but Maria was inspired by his stories of Stanford and of his old friend and classmate, Ray Lyman Wilbur. Wilbur had served as secretary of the interior in Herbert Hoover's administration and returned to Stanford as the university's president. With Carol on her lap, Maria traveled from Washington and sought President Wilbur’s advice on jobs in the area. "Anything for Mac's daughter," he said, and helped her find a position on campus.

Two years later, the Hoover Institution established the Office of Inter-American Relations to strengthen ties with Latin America during World War II. Maria McCormack Hoge, bilingual in English and Spanish, was appointed director. Her Cuban heritage also helped her become an unofficial advisor to Stanford’s Latin American students, often inviting them to her home. Carol fondly recalls "the long meals, the fervent conversations, and students jitterbugging in our living room to music from a windup record player." Though Carol moved to Southern California for her high school years, memories of the intellectual and cultural atmosphere of her childhood brought her back to the Farm for college.

"A Tribute to My Grandfather"

Carol says that Stanford, with its mix of the practical and the intellectual, has had a profound influence in her life as a teacher, as a mother, and as a citizen. She has always appreciated the lack of pomposity in Stanford's culture, the community spirit that makes people feel at home no matter where they come from. She also points out that "less noticeable alumni" like her—teachers, managers, full-time parents—are a part of Stanford's impact in the world. "We are not the CEOs or the Nobel laureates," says Carol. "But we contribute to our communities by making decisions as educated people."

When she got a call from a volunteer with her 50th Reunion Campaign, Carol told her that she'd named Stanford as the beneficiary of an IRA she'd established with earnings from substitute teaching after her retirement. "It's a modest sum, but it will grow, and I'd like Stanford to have it as a tribute to my grandfather, and as an expression of my gratitude to Senator and Mrs. Stanford," she says. Knowing her estate would be modest, she never thought of herself as someone who would have money to leave to Stanford. But something clicked for her while reading Malcolm Gladwell’s 2008 book, Outliers: The Story of Success. Reading about how an individual's success is affected by the opportunities and choices of his or her ancestors, Carol saw how her mother's life, her own life, and the life of her daughter (a University of Pennsylvania graduate with a degree in engineering, now studying to be a veterinarian), were changed by the opportunity her grandfather received from Jane and Leland Stanford.

The Founding Grant Society

When people provide for Stanford, "the Stanfords' university also becomes their university"—so reads the charter of the Founding Grant Society, a membership-optional group for those who include the university in their estate plans. "Each individual act of support reaffirms the Stanfords' promise to children about the future... that it will be better, that they are needed to make it better, and that a legacy of education will serve them more than any other."

Thanks to people like Carol, who have notified Stanford of their bequest intentions, the Founding Grant Society is growing. When The Stanford Challenge began in 2006, the university set a goal of doubling the number of known bequest intentions by the end of 2011. Since then, more than 1,100 people have notified Stanford of their plans, and the Founding Grant Society's annual gathering is all the more enjoyable for those who attend. It's just one way that the Stanford family, which has benefited so many young people, continues to grow.

If Stanford is in your estate plans, all you have to do is notify the Office of Planned Giving, and you'll be invited to join the Founding Grant Society. There are no dues or obligations of any kind.

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