Opening Remarks from President Laura Skandera Trombley
Welcome everyone to this day of celebration ― Pitzer College’s 46th commencement. I would like to recognize all of the families, friends, and loved ones here today and of course, my heartfelt congratulations to you, our graduates.
Nearly five decades ago Pitzer College held its first commencement in front of the original Sanborn Hall and bid a fond farewell to the class of ’65―just three students. 46 years later, where Sanborn Hall once stood and where many of you students first lived, we say good-bye to 215 students here on our new commencement plaza and recreational sports field. Our first year, on a campus barren of any grass or gardens, save two trees, the first president of Pitzer College, John Atherton, a poet, announced that our mandate as a liberal arts college was to “change the Universe.” For nearly fifty years we have been a place where intellectual chances are taken, meaningful community relationships are formed, all voices are encouraged to debate and be heard, and consensus building is sought.
Pitzer College was built by people who dreamed of a unique kind of liberal arts education. These faculty loved young people and understood that a liberal arts education was the key to leading a well-lived, thoughtful life. As Bell Hooks movingly described her classroom experience, “Learning is a place where paradise can be created.”
We have certainly grown as an institution since those early years and have become a place where our ability to offer a fully realized transformational experience provides a national model for educators everywhere.
Here with us on this most special occasion are members of our board of trustees, and our board chair, alumna Robin Kramer, class of 1975. Robin, who majored in Political Studies and Journalism, was a student member of the Faculty Executive Committee, a Residential Assistant in Mead Hall, Editor of the Claremont Collegian, and a member of Claremont Students Against the War. Robin and trustees, your presence here today with Pitzer students, faculty, staff, parents and guests brings the Pitzer community full circle—thank you for joining us on this very special day.
This year we have three faculty members who will be joining the ranks of our distinguished emeriti faculty. Professor of Economics Jim Lehman, Professor of Psychology Rick Tsujimoto and Professor of Political Studies Tom Ilgen please rise.
For the past 29 years, Professor Jim Lehman has thoroughly participated in the life of the Pitzer College Community as a valued member of the Economics field group. For many years he served as the College’s Watson Fellowship liaison guiding and counseling dozens of students to become distinguished Watson Fellowship winners. He has served as Acting Dean of Students and Associate Dean of Faculty and been a highly respected member on the majority of our many college committees. Jim, our students, our faculty and our staff will miss your daily presence here on campus.
Rick Tsujimoto, professor of psychology, joined the Pitzer faculty in 1973, just 10 years after our founding. Professor Tsujimoto pioneered the world of clinical psychology and as a founder of the Intercollegiate Department of Asian American Studies his influence on Pitzer College and The Claremont Colleges has been profound. Rick, I thank you for the very meaningful contributions you have made to our students, to our academic program, and to the life of the College.
Tom Ilgen has been a prominent faculty in our Political Studies field group for 25 years. He has been a member of and chaired numerous governance committees and served as the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty. He is an avid supporter of our study abroad programs, and has been the faculty advisor who prepared over 200 students for their participation in the Harvard Model UN program. Tom, you are a beloved member of the Pitzer faculty and I thank you for all you have devoted to our students in your time here at Pitzer.
Please join me in thanking Professors Lehman, Tsujimoto, and Ilgen for their invaluable contributions to the Pitzer community, and in wishing them a happy and fulfilling retirement.
I would like to express my appreciation to Pitzer College staff members, for their dedicated efforts today ― our commencement committee, groundskeepers and staff from facilities and maintenance, custodial and housekeeping, our food service staff and every office on campus that worked together to create this beautiful occasion. I extend a special thanks to Andrea Olson, director of institutional events, for all of her efforts.
This year’s graduating class elected Professor of Environmental Studies Melinda Herrold-Menzies as the student marshal. Our Faculty Marshal is Ethel Jorge, professor of Spanish.
Students also elect a member of the Pitzer staff to be their honored guest at commencement to thank them for their generosity of spirit and genuine support. This year the students chose, Moya Carter, our Associate Dean of Students.
Today we honor our students and faculty, and the intellectual journey you engaged in together. Following philosophical principles established at our founding, Pitzer College maintains that our educational experience begins with a conversation between the student and professor, that everyone should be honored as an individual, and that each mind must be nurtured to achieve its fullest potential. Pitzer stands proudly among America’s finest liberal arts colleges and we have a unique identity within higher education. It is our mission to provide an academically rigorous, interdisciplinary liberal arts education emphasizing social justice, intercultural understanding and environmental sensitivity.
Seniors, you symbolize every Pitzer student who has come before you and those yet to arrive. You are the living embodiment of all that we hold most true as an institution of higher learning. Here you are at the very beginning of the rest of your lives and I hope you will find the journey meaningful, challenging, exciting and joyous. The late Senator Edward Kennedy could have been describing Pitzer College’s aspirations when he said: “The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dreams shall never die.”
Seniors, during your time at Pitzer College, 74% of you traveled the globe studying the world in all of its beauty and conflict learning 17 languages in 28 countries on six continents. You donated over 100,000 hours to community service. You mentored and tutored hundreds of elementary and high school students in our local communities through programs such as Tutors for Cause and Project Caring and Sharing. You volunteered with community organizations such as Prototypes, working with at-risk women; Pomona Economic Opportunity Center, assisting day laborers; Camp Afferbaugh-Paige, tutoring incarcerated young men; and Jumpstart, teaching preschool children to read.
You witnessed the completion of our Gold LEED residence halls and engaged in the planning of three more. You participated in the crafting of the academic strategic and tactical plans. You planted organic and drought tolerant gardens. You worked in the Grove House and the cafeteria. You attended Alternative Spring Break, hosted events like Kohoutek and the Rockabilly Festival, and raised funds for scholarships and for victims of the Southeast Asian typhoons and the Haitian earthquake.
You creatively expressed yourselves by dancing with the nationally-recognized Claremont Ballroom Dance Company, by singing with the Claremont Shades, by painting murals on campus, by performing in Without a Box, by beautifying the Magnolia Avenue Elementary school, and by screening your documentaries at film festivals.
You excelled in sports: during your four years here, our Sagehen sport teams won 13 SCIAC Championships while our student-athletes were named to the All-Conference and All-Academic Teams and received Player of the Year awards. This year, men’s soccer and women’s tennis won SCIAC championships. Sagehen baseball was the SCIAC champion for the second year straight, while our women’s water polo team won the SCIAC championship for the third year in a row. The Claremont Rugby team, the dragons, won their first-ever national Division II title by beating Temple University 25-19. Our track and field team had an 800 meter SCIAC champion and broke the four-man relay record.
Students, you are an exceptionally accomplished class. You received numerous prestigious awards including a Capital Fellowship, a Critical Language Scholarship, a European Union Center of California Scholarship, a Gilman International Scholarship, a Japan Exchange and Teaching Program Award, a Kemper Scholarship, a McNair Scholarship, a Neurosciences Fellowship, a Robert Day Scholarship, a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship and United Nations Best Delegate. You received a Teach for America post to Mississippi and a Peace Corp placement to Romania.
For the past six consecutive years, Pitzer College has been, per thousand students, #1 in the United States for Fulbright Fellowships. A record breaking 22 Fulbright Fellowships were awarded to Pitzer students and an alumna this year, with an astonishing 11% of this class, the Class of 2010, receiving Fulbrights. I wish you all the best on your travels to Colombia, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Hungary, Indonesia, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Moldova, Nicaragua, Peru, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, Thailand and Uruguay.
Class of 2010, this is a special moment in your lives, and today we celebrate your success.