Widgets Magazine


Sense and Nonsense: John Bravman is Leaving Stanford

He durst not do it! He could not, would not do it! ‘tis worse than murder! Okay, maybe it’s not that bad. But it’s almost that bad.


In a move students did not see coming, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education John Bravman ‘79 M.S. ‘81 Ph.D. ’85 is leaving Stanford to become president of Bucknell University this summer. In disbelief, one of the first things a friend said to me on Monday was that Dean Bravman (we are former FroSoCoans, so to us he will always be “Dean”) would never leave Stanford. In hindsight, I guess crazier things have happened.


Students know him in different ways. To some, he is the imposing figure who hands out iPods at big freshmen events. To others, he is the man who (allegedly) did a lot of not-so-wise but hilarious things while in a frat at Stanford (ever heard the story of when his friends dropped a TV off of a three-story balcony onto a car below?). To others still, he is the inspirational example of someone who went from being on academic probation as a Stanford undergraduate to becoming a leading scholar in his field (a story he tells at Sophomore Convocation when many of us are just starting to make the real transition to Stanford). To many students, he is our class or Sophomore College professor.


To those who lived in Freshman Sophomore College, he is the B.A.D. (a.k.a. the “badass dean”–did I mention the TV story?). Dean Bravman is the man who invites FroSoCo residents into his home for dinner with a faculty member every week, who hosts us in his backyard for barbeques on Fridays, who gives us waking-hour access to his 800-DVD collection, who always has time for us (even in moments when he doesn’t really have time for us), who demonstrates in every interaction with students his belief that with a little encouragement, we can do amazing things.


And it is not just through words. In the fall of last year, I held a fundraiser for a public service organization by selling Krispy Kreme donuts around campus. After I e-mailed our dorm chatlist inviting people to buy donuts, Dean Bravman asked me to get donuts for the whole dorm out of his pocket. And he did it again in each of the next two quarters. While he does not broadcast these things, I know I am not alone. There is a video on YouTube of him donating to students raising money for microfinancing in White Plaza. When a student asks him what just happened, he says, “I just invested in our students’ belief in microfinancing capital.” His encouragement is often private and always sincere.


Dean Bravman has always seemed like a visionary to me, someone who sees both students and Stanford growing to reach our full potential. He talks with so much enthusiasm about University initiatives to give undergraduates more research opportunities and is so confident in handing over the reins to others in the Stanford community to embark on big projects. It is hard to think this man was made for any place but Silicon Valley. And as if leaving the wellspring of innovation were not enough to stop him, has he forgotten how cold Pennsylvania is?


I take a little consolation in the fact that it cannot be easy for him. On Monday, he sent FroSoCo residents a special note about his departure. In it, he quoted lines by Adlai Stevenson that Stanford President Donald Kennedy used to invoke in his commencement remarks to Stanford students:


“Your days are short here; this is the last of your springs. And now in the serenity and quiet of this lovely place, touch the depths of truth, feel the hem of Heaven. You will go away with old, good friends. And don’t forget when you leave why you came.”


Dean Bravman assured residents that he will go away with his “old, good friends” and will never forget why he came. After 35 years, during which his longest departure from the Farm was for his three-week honeymoon, John Bravman has become a part of Stanford. There is a beautiful line from Shakespeare in which Hamlet expresses how unique his father was, saying he will never “look upon his like again.” Stanford could say the same: it will not see two John Bravmans. While we wish him and his family the very best, perhaps it is a time to add that we too will never forget him, nor what he did for us.


Aysha is feeling grateful. Send her your comments at abagchi@stanford.edu.

  • Hi

    Probably one of the better articles I’ve read in the Daily. Awesome job.

  • a student

    An excellent tribute. Prof. Bravman is awesome. I wish he weren’t leaving.

  • observer

    At age 52, it was up or out. I gather he got the feeling “up” wasn’t an option at Stanford. The current president of Bucknell has a salary of $650,000. These openings don’t come along every day.

  • Adam

    As soon as Hennessy is gone, he’ll be back.