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Stanford Oral History Collections

Chu, Jean H. (Athletics, 2016)
Chu, Jean H. (Athletics, 2016)
Chu, Jean H. and Marine-Street, Natalie
Corporate Author:
Stanford Historical Society
In this oral history, Jean (Fetter) Chu, who served as Dean of Undergraduate Admissions at Stanford for seven years, discusses the relationship between admissions and athletics at the university. Chu begins with an account of her own athletic career at Oxford University, playing “attack” on the varsity “net ball” team--a basketball forward in American English. She says it was a highlight of her time at Oxford, where women’s sports were not regarded as highly as men’s teams. She describes the distinction between men’s and women’s sports by noting that male athletes were awarded a Blue letter, while women got a half-letter or Half Blue. At Stanford, Chu found herself in the athletics spotlight when she was named Dean of Undergraduate Admissions in 1984. Athletics coaches and alumni were extremely concerned that having a woman--and a British woman who had a PhD in physics--in the admissions role would negatively affect the athletic program. Chu recalls that one faculty member even felt the need to take her aside to explain--unnecessarily, of course--what the Pac-10 was. Chu describes her great respect for the athletic coaches at Stanford as well as her determination to admit only students she was confident would succeed academically. That resolve, she says, led her to refuse admission to prized basketball recruit, Chris Munk. Her decision led directly to the angry resignation of basketball coach, Thomas Davis. She recalls the wave of criticism she received and reviews the factors she weighed when making her decision. Chu turns from the Munk incident to describe her strong belief in the need to maintain the integrity of the admissions process. She provides a sense of the constant observation she was under from coaches, high school counselors, faculty, and alumni; the unfounded rumors that tended to swirl around the admissions process at Stanford; and both the opposition and support she experienced in the role. She describes the important role that the admissions liaisons to the Department of Athletics played in screening potential recruits and addresses concerns that these staff members might become too closely personally with coaches they befriended. The emotional agony of the admissions decision-making process, she confesses, and the changes it was making in her personal outlook, were important factors in her decision to resign the position. She credits faculty athletic representatives with helping her navigate the occasionally stormy seas and discusses her service on a committee that selected football coach Denny Green. Chu concludes with some kudos for the many star athletes who spent time at Stanford and shares some remarks and anecdotes related to the Stanford Band.
Stanford Historical Society, oral histories, interviews, higher education, professors, Bunnell, John, Chu (formerly Fetter), Jean H., 1937-, college athletes, college sports for women, Stanford University--admissions process, Stanford University--athletics, Stanford University--athletic coaches, Stanford University--Department of Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation, Stanford University--Stanford Band, universities and colleges--admissions, VanDerveer, and Tara
September 2, 2016
Stanford Historical Society Oral History Program interviews, 1999-2012