A Celebration of `Abdu'l-Bahá’s Visit to Stanford University

Jul 15, 2023
Screenshot showing section of slide show featuring a simple graphic timeline of 'Abdu'l-Baha's visit to Stanford,

by Robert Stockman

In early June, a remarkable conference was held at Stanford University celebrating ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s visit to that campus in October 1912. It was sponsored by the Hamid and Christina Moghadam Program in Iranian Studies, which is based on the Stanford campus and supports courses, lectures, and publications about the Persian language and Iranian culture.

“‘Abdu’l-Bahá at Stanford: A Centennial Conference” was attended by nearly 300 people, including three members of the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States. People began to arrive as early as 7:30 a.m. on Sunday morning to be sure they could get in. It was opened by Dr. Abbas Milani, Director of the Iranian Studies Program, who spoke about the unjust persecution of Iran’s Bahá’í community and the failure of the world to support the freedom of Iran’s women. Following his address, Dr. C. Ryan Perkins spoke about “The Bahá’í Archives at Stanford” because the university is systematically collecting Bahá’í books and other materials in its library. The short film “‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Journey Across America” by Hamid Mozaffari was shown to provide context for the program.

There were two panels of 90 minutes each, with a break for discussion and refreshments in between. The first panel, moderated by Dr.  Natalie Jean Marine-Street, began with a presentation by Shane Tedjarati and  Abbas Milani on “‘Abdu’l-Bahá at Stanford: An Archival Inquiry.” Two presentations followed; Negar Mottahedeh about “‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Journey West: The Course of Human Solidarity” and Robert H. Stockman about “‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Universities in the US and Europe.”

The second panel was moderated by Dr. Kioumars Ghereghlou and also had three presentations: Mina Yazdani about “Reflections on “‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Views on Reform in Persia”; Dominic Parviz Brookshaw on “To Train Mothers and to Promote Eloquence: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and the Education of Women and Girls in Iran”; and  Richard W. Thomas, who spoke via Zoom about “‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Pioneer in Anti-racism, Racial Unity, and Cultural Diversity.” After each panel, the audience asked numerous questions. A sumptuous lunch for the speakers, organizers, and key attendees brought closure to the well organized event and discussion about its great success. The entire program is now available on YouTube (see below).


Robert Stockman, ThD

WI Dean, Bahá’í History, Texts and Tenets

I have had a passion for researching and teaching about the Bahá’í Faith for more than half of my life. My fascination with American Bahá’í history and with the first American Bahá’í, Thornton Chase, caused me, in 1980, to switch my academic field from planetary science to history of religion in the United States. As I was finishing my doctorate in that field at Harvard University in 1990, I drew up plans to create a Bahá’í Studies institute that would offer courses, encourage research, and publish. Instead, I was hired by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States to start a research office at our national Bahá’í headquarters in Wilmette, Illinois. Some of the responsibilities of the research office led to the creation of the Wilmette Institute, which ​focuses on most of the tasks of the institute I originally conceived. Meanwhile, I have also remained involved in academia, teaching religious studies part time at DePaul University in Chicago and currently at Indiana University South Bend, just a mile from home. I have also published four books on aspects of Bahá’í history (including a biography of Thornton Chase) and one introductory textbook on the Faith. Listen to Robert’s interview on ‘A Bahá’í Perspective’ podcastSee Faculty Bio


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