Leland Stanford Jr. was born in 1868, the son of Leland and Jane Stanford, who had emigrated to California from New York in 1852. His father was a successful businessman who made his fortune in railroads and real estate development. When Leland Jr. was only three years old, he suffered from typhoid fever and died at age 15 on March 13, 1884.
The Stanfords were devastated by their son’s death and decided to turn their grief into something positive by creating a memorial for him. They set up a trust fund that would provide scholarships for students at any college or university in the U.S., but only if it met certain criteria: The school had to be established as an institution of higher education within 10 years of the date of Leland Jr’s death (March 13, 1884) and named after him.
Over time, the requirements of this trust have been relaxed slightly; today there are no longer any restrictions on where students can apply for scholarship money or how many years must pass between Leland Jr’s death and the establishment of a new institution.
In the early years, Stanford University was known as the Leland Stanford Junior University (LSJU). The school officially became known as Stanford University in 1925.