Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Bob and I have been on a Great Universities travel kick. I think it started back in 2003 when we took Sam and Andrew to New York City. Bob had always harbored a secret desire to attend the LLM program at NYU (which has the top tax law program in the U.S.), and so he wanted to see what the campus looked like. It was unlike any university we'd ever seen before. Its main campus is next to Washington Square in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, and it almost looks like just another New York City block of skyscrapers. Without the NYU signs, I don't think we would have even noticed we were walking through a university campus. Although it was established in 1831, it looks very modern. It has been ranked as the 29th best university in the world by the Academic Ranking of World Universities, but has many programs in the U.S. top ten for their category. For example, their philosophy department is ranked 1st in the United States. Unfortunately, if we took pictures I can't find them, so I had to pilfer these from the internet:

Then Andrew was admitted to UCLA in spring 2006, and we started spending more time at that campus. UCLA is currently ranked 4th in the world by the High Impact Universities rankings, 11th in the world by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, and 13th in the world (and 11th in the United States) by the Academic Ranking of World Universities. The year Andrew was accepted, U.S. News and World Report ranked the UCLA art program as the 3rd in the U.S.  While UCLA is a relatively young university (established in 1919), it oozes culture, tradition, history, and academic excellence.  We love the classic architecture and the open spaces:
These steps remind me of the Spanish Steps in Rome.

Seeing UCLA made us want to see more, so when we went to England later that summer, we visited Oxford University, the second oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world (established around the 11th century).  Not only is it incredibly beautiful, both in its setting and the actual buildings themselves, but it is so loaded with history and famous alumni that walking across the huge campus feels like walking through a world history book.  Among its thousands of distinguished and famous alumni are (just to name a few) John Wesley, Samuel Johnson, Percy Shelley, Adam Smith, John Locke, Lewis Carroll, Aldous Huxley, Oscar Wilde, William Gladstone, C.S. Lewis, T.S. Eliot, Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, J.R.R. Tolkien, Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, and Rupert Murdoch. The university has had 57 Nobel Prize winners and was ranked 10th in the word in 2010 by the Academic Ranking of World Universities, although other ranking systems place it as high as 5th.

Dining Hall, Christ's Church (Setting of the dining hall for the Harry Potter movies)

Like our visits to NYU and UCLA, strolling across the Oxford campus whet our appetites for future visits to other great institutions of learning.

It took a few years, but we've continued our Great Universities Tour this spring, starting with visits to Stanford and Berkeley in February. Our personal tour guide was David Cannon, Bob's brother, who has degrees from both schools.

STANFORD, established in 1891, is another very beautiful campus.  We were there on a Sunday afternoon and the place was very quiet in spite of the fact that it has 15,000 students.  I think they must have all been in their dorm rooms frantically studying for Monday's classes.  After all, 51 Stanford faculty, staff, and alumni have won the Nobel Prize, the U.S. News and World Report ranked its undergraduate program 5th in the nation in 2009, and the Academic Ranking of World Universities ranked Stanford 3rd in the world in 2010. I'd say that's a pretty competitive university. 

From there we traveled north to BERKELEY, established in 1868. I always connect Berkeley with the radical politics and protests of the 1960s, so I was surprised to learn it is ranked 2nd in the world overall by the Academic Ranking of World Universities. Berkeley faculty, alumni, and researchers have won 66 Nobel Prizes, 43 MacArthur Fellowships, 20 Academy Awards, and 11 Pulitzer Prizes.   A fun bit of trivia is that Berkeley and its researchers are associated with six elements of the periodic table: Californium, Seaborgium, Berkelium, Einsteinium, Fermium, and Lawrencium.  But who cares about scientists? I love Berkeley because Gregory Peck is an alumnus. The campus was much noisier and more active than the Stanford campus, but possibly because the State High School Speech Tournament was going on, the same one that Sam attended twice during his high school speech years. It was fun to picture him walking around the campus, feeding on the energy of hundreds of other young, accomplished high school kids.

COMING NEXT: The Ivy Leagues


  1. Interesting! I had no idea these universities were so beautiful.

  2. Dave's a famous alumni of Berkeley, and my sister and brother graduated from Stanford, where my father was a faculty member for many years.

  3. Wait. I take it back. My sister and HER husband went to Stanford (as does my niece). But my brother graduated from Harvard.