Education: Excellence Under the Palm Trees

Brash and exuberant, Stanford jostles the Ivies at the top ranks of U.S. universities

Start with the palm trees -- the king palms, windmill palms and date palms by the hundreds that grace the sprawling 8,200-acre campus. Beneath their gently waving fronds lie beds of fragrant star jasmine and flowering ice plant. Then there are those strapping, clean-cut young men and women, tossing Frisbees in the perpetual sunshine, lounging on the grass in cutoffs and T shirts, cycling along special bike lanes on their way to buy frozen yogurts ("fro-yo," to locals) or to play a few sets of tennis. Finally, there are the buildings, the picturesque, mission-style structures with their red tile roofs and...

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