Pitzer Spotlights

2007-2008 Spotlight Archives

Generous Gift Funds Auditorium Renovation

Conceptual interior illustration of the George Benson Auditorium by Brenda Levin of Levin & Associates Architects
Conceptual interior illustration of the George Benson Auditorium by Brenda Levin of Levin & Associates Architects
President Trombley with Robert Day in his Los Angeles office
President Trombley with Robert Day in his Los Angeles office

Robert Day has presented Pitzer College with a personal gift of $3 million for the renovation of Avery Auditorium. The generous gift is one of the largest private donations ever received by the College and will be used to completely renovate and upgrade the auditorium, which was built in 1969. At Day's request, the auditorium will be named George Benson Auditorium to honor his good friend, the late Dr. George Benson.

Benson was a remarkable leader: a founding trustee of Pitzer College, the founding president and a founding trustee of Claremont Men's College (which became coeducational in 1976), and an early trustee of Harvey Mudd College, where he played an instrumental role in its establishment. All three colleges, established within seventeen years of each other, are currently the youngest in the nation to be ranked in the Top 50 by U.S.News & World Report. George Benson Auditorium will be the first academic building to be named after Benson on a Claremont College campus and is fittingly located at Pitzer College, which geographically resides in the middle of the three colleges.

In close collaboration with Robert J. Bernard, organizer of the founding boards of Claremont McKenna College, Harvey Mudd College and Pitzer College, Benson worked with founder Russell K. Pitzer to lay the foundation for the establishment of Pitzer College. As a founding member of Pitzer College’s Board of Trustees, Benson defined the key qualifications required for the College’s first president as character and determination, personality, executive ability and scholarship. Benson chaired the search committee that named John W. Atherton, then dean of faculty for Claremont Men’s College, as Pitzer’s founding president. Benson also secured the initial gift to establish Harvey Mudd College and recruited its first president, Joseph Platt.

“Robert Day is a generous and devoted friend to The Claremont Colleges and we value his relationship with Pitzer College. This is a deeply meaningful and insightful gift for which we are most grateful,” President Laura Skandera Trombley said.

“George Benson was a dear friend and a great leader,” Day said. “It is a privilege to be able to make this gift in his memory and for the benefit of Pitzer College. The quality of student life was one of George's great passions and I know he would be very excited by this project and Brenda Levin's design.”

The entire interior of the auditorium will be replaced and new technology will be installed for the benefit of the College's Media Studies program. A large glass lobby will be added to the front of the building and will include pocket doors to facilitate performances in the lobby that can be viewed from the lawn. The auditorium renovation will employ green building principles such as an HVAC system that reduces energy consumption as well as recycled carpeting and fiber seats.

The renovation will be undertaken by Brenda Levin of Levin & Associates Architects, Los Angeles. Brenda Levin was the recipient of the University of Southern California School of Architecture's prestigious Parkinson Spirit of Urbanism Award and is the recipient of the first Creative Force Award on the West Coast, as well as the architect for the successful renovation of the Griffith Park Observatory. The renovation is scheduled to begin in the fall and continue into the winter. The auditorium is the only part of Avery Hall that will be named in Benson's honor.