Going for Gold
Groundbreaking Marks Auspicious Beginning of Construction
Under a beautiful, blue sky, more than 250 members of the Pitzer community—students, faculty, alumni, trustees and staff—gathered on September 18 to celebrate the auspicious beginning of construction for the Residential Life Project. The event marked the start of a new era at Pitzer as the College embarks on an ambitious building project that will transform the campus by replacing all three original dorms with new LEED-certified residence halls that truly integrate the living and learning environments on campus.
Eugene Stein, Pitzer’s new chair of the Board of Trustees, called the community together, welcoming guests and special visitors representing the City of Claremont, the event’s sponsors and, most importantly, the three families who have come together to provide $11 million in lead gifts for the fund raising effort: Ann, John and Russell Pitzer through the Pitzer Family Foundation; Gloria and Peter Gold P’74, and Susan and Nicholas Pritzker P’93.
President Laura Skandera Trombley set the tone for the event by beckoning attendees to return in their minds to the exciting era when the College was first established in 1963.
Student Senate President Michael Pearson ’06 followed, highlighting the participatory process that led to this groundbreaking, including student involvement in every aspect of the project. Pearson thanked the lead donors to the project on behalf of the student body, and urged current students to remain involved in the project as it moves toward completion.
Extending the lesson in history, Professor of Classics Steve Glass—a member of the founding faculty—lectured eloquently about how the ancient Romans consulted special priests (“augers”) when they broke ground for any new building, and the importance of having “good auspices” or signs from the gods that a building enterprise enjoyed their goodwill. Absent these ancient assurances, Professor Glass proposed that the College move ahead relying on the fact that these “green” buildings might one day help to usher in a new era of ecological health for the planet.
Vice President of Student Affairs Jim Marchant took the podium to share the promise of the new residence halls to integrate the living and learning processes on campus in new and exciting ways.
Environmental Studies Professor Paul Faulstich ’79, the project’s official “green champion,” mentioned how important it is that the College build sustainably and that every part of the community advance this goal. Reminding us that the words economy and ecology both find their roots in the ancient Greek word oikos or house, Professor Faulstich pointed out that building green is an “eco-logical” act that is really the only sensible way to build.
The keynote speaker for the groundbreaking event was Tom Hayden, the dynamic leader of the students, civil rights, peace and environmental movements of the 1960s. Hayden, a visiting professor at Pitzer this semester, talked about his participation in the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, and the remarkable commitment of Pitzer College in keeping true to its founding vision.
Mark Acuña, a local Tongva Tribal Council leader, closed the event with a special dedication ceremony that connected the gathered community with the land. Acuña handed a branch of Wikwat or Artemisia tridentate (known commonly as sagebrush), the Tongva’s most sacred plant, to four volunteers representing the students, faculty, staff and administration, and each person handed it to another person until everyone had touched the branch. The last person holding the branch then placed it on the construction site to symbolize the community’s connection with the earth.
—Richard Chute ’84