by Bob Sherbin

Under a blue autumn sky, more than 600 students, Silicon Valley dignitaries and NVIDIA employees joined Stanford’s administrative brass in dedicating the keystone building of the Engineering School’s new campus.

Named for NVIDIA’s co-founder and CEO, the Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center features broad windows and terraces overlooking the grassy Engineering Quad, with the landmark tower of the Hoover Institute in the distance. The school – which  has 240 faculty, 800 undergrads and 3,300 graduate students – grants fully one-tenth of the engineering doctorates awarded each year in the U.S.  


Despite the formality of the setting, the 45-minute ceremony was punctuated by warm, often funny comments by Huang, who received his MS in electrical engineering from Stanford in 1992. He noted that some of the world’s most important companies have sprung forth from the engineering school, including Yahoo, Cisco, Google and Sun, which have ushered in  stunning innovation that has changed the way people use technology.

“What is today about?” Huang rhetorically asked the audience, some of whom looked on from balconies, others from the gently terraced natural theater nestled beside the building. “Today is really about creating the future, to meet challenges that have never been met before. This is about placing another bet to move the needle forward.”

Jen Hsun Huang at Stanford Building Dedication

Credit: Emily Wheeler Photography

Preceding the ceremony, a symposium was held in the Center’s 300-seat NVIDIA Auditorium, with attendees spilling out  into the lobby, as  Huang was joined by Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang and Stanford President John Hennessy, a pioneering figure in computer architecture. Led by Jim Plummer, dean of the Engineering School, the discussion ranged broadly over the topic of Technology Innovation  in the 21st Century. Although marked by banter and moments of nostalgia, as Huang and Yang recalled being students of both Hennessy and Plummer, the discussion covered the dynamism of the Valley, the indespensible need for passion, and the relationship between art and technology.

In a poignant moment, Plummer asked the panel where they had learned the key skills that had propelled their success. Huang jumped in and described himself as a combination of his parents – half his father’s disciplined pursuit of perfection as an engineer and half his mother’s  sense of  spontaneity and careful instinct.

More than once over the course of the afternoon, Huang referred to the engineering school’s legacy and predicted that more than one student who passes through the new center will drive innovation that changes the world.