Amasa Leland Stanford (March 9, 1824 – June 21, 1893) was an American tycoon,industrialist, politician and founder of Stanford University. Migrating to California from New York at the time of the Gold Rush, he became a successful merchant and wholesaler, and continued to build his business empire. He served one two-year term as governor of California after his election in 1861, and later eight years as senator from the state. As president of Southern Pacific and, beginning in 1861, Central Pacific, he had tremendous power in the region and a lasting impact on California. Many consider him a robber baron.
Main article: Stanford University
With his wife Jane, Stanford founded Leland Stanford Junior University as a memorial for their only child, Leland Stanford, Jr., who died as a teenager of typhoid fever in Florence, Italy, in 1884 while on a trip to Europe. The University was established by March 9, 1885, Endowment Act of the California assembly and senate, and the Grant of Endowment from Leland and Jane Stanford signed at the first meeting of the board of trustees on November 14, 1885.
The Stanfords donated approximately US$40 million (over $1 billion in 2010 dollars) to develop the university, which held its opening exercises October 1, 1891. It was intended for agricultural studies. Its first student, admitted to Encina Hall that day, was Herbert Hoover. The wealth of the Stanford family during the late 19th century is estimated at about $50 million (about $1.3 billion in 2010 dollars).