Claremont, Calif. (June 17, 2003) — John R. Rodman, who came to Pitzer College in 1965 as an assistant professor of political studies and nurtured the growth and preservation of the college’s unique gardens and landscaping, died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease June 16, 2003.
Professor Rodman was born Jan. 14, 1933, in Batesville, Ark. He earned his B.A. in government and philosophy at Harvard College in 1954, where his honors included Harvard National Scholar; Phi Beta Kappa; magna cum laude; and the Philo Sherman Bennett Prize for his senior thesis. He earned his M.A. in 1956 and Ph.D. in 1959 in political science from Harvard University.
After teaching at Harvard University as an assistant professor from 1961 to 1965, John Rodman served as an assistant professor of political studies at Pitzer from 1965 to 1966. He was an associate professor of political studies at Pitzer and Claremont Graduate School from 1966 until becoming a full professor in 1971. Professor Rodman also was dean of faculty from 1969 to 1971. He began teaching environmental studies at Pitzer in 1970. He retired from teaching environmental studies and political studies in the spring of 2000.
“John Rodman was an extraordinary gift of a man,” said Pitzer College President Laura Skandera Trombley. “He possessed a keen intellect, he was a superb educator and scholar, and he loved Pitzer College. His influence on this institution was enormous. John impacted scores of students, who today talk about how he was the teacher who opened their minds and taught them not just his course’s content but how to conduct their lives with integrity and intelligence.”
“He held the respect and esteem of his peers at the College as well as colleagues throughout the country,” President Trombley said. “He served admirably as Dean of the Faculty, and once welcomed a young assistant professor by telling him that at Pitzer College he was expected to experiment and that he had an absolute right to exercise his academic freedom. Twenty years later, that psychology professor now serves as Pitzer’s Dean of the Faculty. John’s spirit infuses this campus — you literally cannot walk outside without seeing the respect he had for the environment and his attachment to his surroundings. We all grieve John’s passing and we all celebrate his life. I invite the Pitzer College community to take a walk in John’s gardens, to enjoy and appreciate his legacy, and to rejoice in our good fortune in having known him,” President Trombley said.
“John epitomizes a Pitzer faculty member in his pursuit of intellectual inquiry,” said Pitzer College Dean of the Faculty Alan Jones. “He followed the questions where they led him and absolutely invested himself in the work he did here. The College will forever bear that stamp. He is in many ways the bedrock of Pitzer College,” Jones said.
Professor Rodman became the director of the Pitzer College Arboretum in 1988 after the college approved his proposal to formally create the project. The arboretum is composed of 15 distinct garden areas. Several disciplines make use of the arboretum, including art, anthropology and environmental studies.
Professor Rodman is credited with playing a pivotal role in the design and preservation of campus landscaping. Though the project was approved in 1988, planting began in the 1960s and flourished in the 1970s when Pitzer created its Environmental Studies program. The arboretum was named after Professor Rodman in 2000.
In addition to winning many academic grants and awards over the course of his career, Professor Rodman was a member of the editorial advisory board of Environmental Ethics from 1979 to 1985 and was the environment editor of North American Review from 1987 to 1989.
Professor Rodman’s published works range from reports on local ecological issues to essays on ecology and political theory in the journals of the American Political Science Association and Western Political Quarterly.
Professor Rodman worked at the arboretum every day until last summer.
He is survived by his wife, Gwen; a stepson, Graham Hendrickson of Mt. Baldy, and his wife, Ellen, both Pitzer graduates; two stepdaughters, Kim Braeger of Upland and Karin Hendrickson of Boise, Idaho; and two grandchildren, Camile Braeger and Blake Hendrickson.
A memorial service will be 4-6 p.m. June 27 at the Grove House. The family requests that in lieu of flowers donations be made in his name to the John Rodman Arboretum Fund at Pitzer College.