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Pitzer Participant - Fall 2005

A Landmark Moment

Groundbreaking Ceremony
President Laura Trombley and Board of Trustee Chair Eugene Stein

An enthusiastic Pitzer community gathered on a warm, sunny September afternoon to celebrate the groundbreaking of the first phase of its landmark Residential Housing Project. With the construction site as a background and bulldozers and Mount Baldy looming above, the moving ceremony included a founding faculty member, the president of Student Senate, the chair of the Pitzer Board of Trustees, several community members, and the president.

Welcome to all friends of Pitzer College on this wonderful occasion. This is a time to celebrate with friends and family, to take a moment to reflect on our College’s extraordinary past and to look forward to a strong and innovative future. For the past five years, the community of Pitzer has been involved in planning efforts that have resulted in our gathering for this groundbreaking ceremony today. This is a landmark moment, where we stand juxtaposed between the past and the future of our College.

During the past few years, I have had the pleasure of meeting the members of the Pitzer community and hearing their reflections and memories about our College. I have particularly enjoyed reading the record John Atherton, the College’s first president, left about his years here with his wife Virginia. Ginny, who is in the audience today, we are so glad you could be with us. In an article written in 1979, President Atherton recounted the founding of the wonder child of the Claremont Consortium, and I wanted to share a brief excerpt with you:

“We brought our own special dreams and aspirations as Pitzer College began to take shape. Out of this heady atmosphere certain ideas began to crystallize. As I try to recover the taste and flavor of the time, the key words were participation and community.

There was, of course, everything to do, to be done all at once and immediately. We planned, after weighing all the risks and opportunities, to open the doors for instruction in September 1964. That meant we had 17 months to complete, furnish and landscape Scott and Sanborn, recruit a founding faculty of 10, round up an entering class of pioneering Pitzer students, plan a four-year curriculum, find friends, donors, and trustees, and finally, raise enough money to keep the place solvent for another year. So we had participation whether we liked it or not; everybody had to do something of everything. The trustees wanted to help with the curriculum; as the faculty came along they wanted a hand in suggesting new trustees; everybody wanted to redesign the buildings and give advice to the architects; and, of course, when the students arrived they wanted to start over completely, happily pointing out flaws in the curriculum, faculty, trustees, campus plans, and the president.

By some miracle, almost the day after the last steaming strip of asphalt was deposited in the Sanborn parking lot, the eager and expectant class of ’68 arrived. By the end of the first week our students had registered, started classes, and filled Scott Hall for the first Town Hall Meeting. There, in a marvelous atmosphere of anticipation, innocence, idealism, and general pandemonium we set about organizing the College, restructuring The Claremont Colleges, reforming the government of the United States, and improving the universe. We began by eliminating the president’s parking space, and ended the first night’s session by reinventing [with vast improvements] liberal arts education.”

Pitzer College’s motto is Provida Futuri (mindful of the future) and more than four decades later, here we are embracing our history, anticipating our future and still a community intent on reinventing liberal education. These new buildings: Kenneth and Jean Pitzer Hall, Flora Sanborn Hall, and John and Virginia Atherton Hall, will become a reality due to the support of our community, and in particular because of the generosity of three families: Peter and Gloria Gold; Russell, Ann and John Pitzer; and Susan and Nick Pritzker.

We will create living and learning spaces in buildings that will stand as models of environmentally sustainable housing. Pitzer students, faculty, alumni and staff, true to the College’s history of community governance, actively participated in the planning of this project. In Professor Jack Sullivan’s Politics of Water class taught last spring, our plans for the residence halls served as a case study, creating opportunities for students to apply their knowledge and talents in designing a $30 million project.

We believe green building principles mirror the College’s goals and values of global sustainability, and the Residential Life and Learning Committee has worked diligently during the past year to develop the plans for the building and landscape program. Due to the strong efforts on the part of the project team, and support of the entire community, a Gold LEED rating is within reach and we are the first college in the nation to engage in a Gold LEED project of this size.

Buildings Pitzer, Atherton and Sanborn represent the best thinking of our community, helping to create for students what founding faculty member Ruth Munroe described as a “Haven for Thought,” that represents our ongoing efforts in embracing ecological sustainability. These buildings will include an art studio and gallery as well as an expanded writing center. There will be the Pressberg Family Music Room, and the Parsons Foundation is funding the science learning community with faculty in residence. There will be wireless access throughout the buildings along with a ratio of ten students for every study room, and our green planning process is being underwritten by the Kresge Foundation.

It is my hope that the future generations of Pitzer students will happily live and learn in these buildings and experience a marvelous atmosphere of anticipation, innocence, idealism and general pandemonium as they set about organizing the College, restructuring The Claremont Colleges, reforming the government of the United States and improving the universe.

Thank you for coming today to be part of this moment in our history, and I hope to see you all again in the summer of 2007 when we shall celebrate the completion of the first phase of our building program with the first organized Pitzer community sleepover.

To Our Future,

Laura Skandera Trombley
President, Pitzer College

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