The Gingham Dress
A lady in a faded gingham dress and her husband, dressed in a
homespun threadbare suit, stepped off the train in Boston, and
walked timidly without an appointment into the Harvard University
President’s outer office.
The secretary could tell in a moment that such
backwoods, country hicks had no business at
Harvard & probably didn’t even deserve to be in
Cambridge . “We’d like to see the president,” the
man said softly. “He will be busy all day,” the
secretary snapped. “We will wait,” the lady replied.
For hours the secretary ignored them, hoping that the
couple would finally become discouraged and go away.
They didn’t, and the secretary grew frustrated and
finally decided to disturb the president, even though
it was a chore she always regretted.
“Maybe if you see them for a few minutes, they’ll leave,”
she said to him! He sighed in exasperation and nodded.
Someone of his importance obviously didn’t have the time
to spend with them, and he detested gingham dresses
and homespun suits cluttering up his outer office.
The president, stern faced and with dignity, strutted
toward the couple. The lady told him!, “We had a son
who attended Harvard for one year. He loved Harvard. He was happy
here. But about a year ago, he was accidentally killed.
My husband and I would like to erect a memorial to him,
somewhere on campus.” The president wasn’t touched.
He was shocked.
“Madam,” he said, gruffly, “we can’t put up a statue
for every person who attended Harvard and died.
If we did, this place would look like a cemetery..”
“Oh, no,” the lady explained quickly. “We don’t want to
erect a statue. We thought we would like to give a
building to Harvard.”
The president rolled his eyes. He glanced at the
gingham dress and homespun suit, then exclaimed,
“A building! Do you have any earthly idea how
much a building costs? We have over seven and a half
million dollars in the physical buildings here at Harvard.”
For a moment the lady was silent.
The president was pleased. Maybe he could get rid of
The lady turned to her husband and said quietly, “Is
that all it costs to start a university? Why don’t we
just start our own? ” Her husband nodded. The
president’s face wilted in confusion and bewilderment.
Mr. and Mrs. Leland Stanford got up and walked away,
traveling to Palo Alto, California where they established
the university that bears their name, Stanford University,
a memorial to a son that Harvard no longer cared about.
You can easily judge the character of others by how
they treat those who they think can do nothing for them.
A TRUE STORY By Malcolm Forbes
I hope to keep this in mind whenever I start to judge.