Knight-Hennessy Scholars

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Knight-Hennessy Scholars
Knight-Hennessy Scholars Logo.png
AffiliationsStanford University

Knight-Hennessy Scholars is an international graduate-level scholarship program for study at Stanford University. Established in 2016, the program prepares students to take leadership roles in finding creative solutions to complex global issues. Scholars receive full funding to pursue any graduate degree at Stanford and have additional opportunities for leadership training, mentorship, and experiential learning across multiple disciplines.


On February 22, 2016, Stanford University announced that Nike co-founder and Stanford Graduate School of Business alumnus Phil Knight had pledged $400 million to Stanford to establish the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program.[1][2] It was the largest ever one-time donation to Stanford.[2] In total, the program raised a $750 million endowment,[1] making it the largest fully endowed scholarship program in the world.[3] The program is named for Phil Knight and John L. Hennessy, Stanford's tenth president, who stepped down in the summer of 2016 after 16 years in the role,[2] and was named chairman of Alphabet Inc. in 2018.[4] Hennessy, who conceived of the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program as "an interdisciplinary intellectual home that stresses collaboration,"[5] serves as the program's inaugural director. Jeff Wachtel serves as executive director,[3] with Derrick Bolton as dean of admission.[6]


The Knight-Hennessy Scholars program is inspired by programs such as the Rhodes Scholarship, with a focus on attracting students with a wide range of backgrounds from around the world.[2][7][8] In addition to their graduate studies, scholars participate in leadership development programs and immersive study trips, and have opportunities for mentorship with thought leaders in business, government and nonprofit fields.[3]


Since 2018, the program annually offers financial support comprising full tuition and fees, room and board, related academic expenses, and a stipend for living expenses. Successful applicants to the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program demonstrate leadership, independence of thought, and civic commitment.[1][9]

Potential applicants apply to the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program and also apply separately to a graduate degree program at one of Stanford's seven schools.[3] The inaugural class of 51 scholars from 21 countries, pursuing degrees in 31 academic departments at all seven of Stanford's schools, was announced on February 15, 2018.[10][11] Chosen from 3,601 applicants,[4] the inaugural cohort was 57% female, majority nonwhite, and 23% first-generation US citizens.[5] They earned undergraduate degrees at 38 different schools, and 63% hold non-US passports, from countries including Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, Colombia, Egypt, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Myanmar, New Zealand, Nigeria, Romania, South Korea, Syria, Tajikistan, and the United Kingdom.[12] The inaugural cohort arrived at Stanford in the fall of 2018,[13][14] with up to 100 scholarships awarded annually in subsequent years.[9][15] In 2019, a class of 75 scholars is anticipated.[4] Students will receive funding for up to three years toward a master's degree. Scholars pursuing doctorates or medical degrees can receive additional funding beyond the three years from their departments.[2][5]


Scholars are housed among Stanford's graduate students, approximately 80% of whom live on campus. Stanford has constructed Denning House on the shore of Lake Lagunita; the on-campus building serves as the center for the Knight-Hennessy Scholars community.[3] Scholars gather at Denning House for presentations, workshops and social events. New York architectural firm Ennead designed the two-story building, which has classrooms, a dining area, and meeting and lecture rooms, as well as office space for a fellow-in-residence and for the program's administrative staff.[15][16] The building is a gift from Steven A. Denning, chair of the school's Board of Trustees, and his wife, Roberta Bowman Denning, chair of the Arts Advisory Board and the Humanities & Science Council.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Alessandra Stanley, "Philip Knight of Nike to Give $400 Million to Stanford Scholars," New York Times, February 24, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e Sara Germano, "Nike Founder Phil Knight Donates $400 Million to Stanford," Wall Street Journal, February 24, 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d e Michael Gioia, "Stanford launching Knight-Hennessy scholarship to attract top graduates," Stanford Daily, February 24, 2016.
  4. ^ a b c Amini, Mariam (3 Mar 2018). "Alphabet's John Hennessy talks about helping international students with scholarships". CNBC.
  5. ^ a b c Howard, Caroline (23 Mar 2018). "This Stanford Computer Science Genius Aims To Crack The Code Of Learning And Leadership". Forbes.
  6. ^ Mariam Amini, "University students left in limbo by Trump’s travel ban," CNBC, February 22, 2017.
  7. ^ Merrit Kennedy, "Nike Co-Founder Donates $400 Million To Stanford University," NPR, February 24, 2016.
  8. ^ "Stanford Stays the Course," Harvard Magazine, May–June 2016.
  9. ^ a b Ari Chasnoff, "Knight-Hennessy Scholars program identifies admission criteria," Stanford News, February 7, 2017.
  10. ^ "Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program Announces Pioneer Cohort of Future Leaders". Retrieved 15 Feb 2018.
  11. ^ Baron, Ethan (21 Mar 2018). "Silicon Valley's housing and traffic woes put it at risk for replacement: former Stanford president John Hennessy". The Mercury News.
  12. ^ "Knight-Hennessy Scholars program announces pioneer cohort of future leaders". Retrieved 15 Feb 2018.
  13. ^ Annette Chang, "Inaugural Knight-Hennessy Scholars selected," The Stanford Daily, February 15, 2018.
  14. ^ Susan Gonzalez, "Five alumni intent on improving the world named Knight-Hennessy Scholars," Yale News, February 16, 2018.
  15. ^ a b Kathleen J. Sullivan, "Knight-Hennessy Scholars program in start-up mode," Stanford News, August 30, 2016.
  16. ^ a b Kathleen J. Sullivan, "Knight-Hennessy Scholars program wins approval for Denning House, holds first meeting of faculty advisory board," Stanford News, December 8, 2016.

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