Alison Carpenter Davis talks about her book “Letters Home from Stanford”

by Linda Hubbard Gulker on March 17, 2017

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Alison Carpenter Davis, author of the new book Letters Home from Stanford, is appearing at the Menlo Park Library on March 21. The book is a collection of written and electronic correspondence by generations of Stanford students, from the Pioneer Class to the 21st century.

Alison, a class of 1979 Stanford grad, compiled the letters in collaboration with the Stanford University Archives, which houses a letters and memoirs collection from 1891 to the early 1960s. She worked with different groups and recent grads for more current letters.

“My inspiration was my own mother’s letters home,” Alison explained. “My grandmother had told her that had to write home twice a week or her Stanford tuition would be pulled. Lucky, my grandmother saved all the letters.”

One thing that caught Alison by surprise was how much she related to her mom’s experience. “There was not only the shared experience of Stanford, but things you go through as a human being.”

There are a number of letters from current and past Menlo Park residents in the book:

  • Current Menlo Park resident Chrissie Huneke Kremer (’84) has a letter in book that she wrote her family while at the Stanford overseas campus in Vienna. She’ll read that letter at the 3/21 MP library event.
  • Her father John Huneke (’53) has several letters in book about student life in the late 1940s. He lived in Atherton until his death in 2005.
  • Prominent Stanford psychologist Robert Richardson Sears (’29) lived in Menlo Park, dying in his MP home in 1989. In his letter in book, he describes his excitement over being named the literary magazine editor.
  • The grandmother and father of longtime Stanford tennis coach Dick Gould both have letters in the book. Dick lived in Menlo Park for many years before moving to Palo Alto last year. Dick’s grandmother wrote her letter while sitting outside her residence hall during the 1906 earthquake aftershocks. Dick’s father (’34) writes his parents about playing football in the early 1930s, with interesting notes re: Pop Warner and Dave Packard.

While Alison says the personality and particulars of Stanford comes through in the letters, there is an added layer. “In a much more general sense, current students wherever they’re attending are mentored through the words of past students,” she said.

Alison’s appearance is free, and it will take place at 6:30 pm on Tuesday, March 21, at the Menlo Park Library at 800 Alma Street.


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