Claremont, Calif. (February 7, 2011) — Pitzer College mourns the death of Mrs. Virginia Richards Atherton, widow of Pitzer’s founding president, John W. Atherton. Mrs. Atherton passed away on February 4, 2011. She had just celebrated her 90th birthday on January 5 with her family and friends.
Since 1963, Mrs. Atherton was an active member of the Pitzer community and held a keen interest in the developments of the College. As Pitzer’s “first lady,” Mrs. Atherton set the standard for entertaining and hospitality in Claremont. Founding faculty and their families credit her for building genuine friendships and relationships that turned Pitzer into a true community on and off campus.
Mrs. Atherton often attended campus events including the Atherton Society Dinners established by Emeritus Professor Ronald Macaulay in the early 80s and more recently the Munroe Center for Social Inquiry’s “Capitalism in Question” lectures. She enjoyed meeting each of the John W. Atherton Scholarship and Esther Stewart Richards Scholarship (established in 1967 in honor of her mother) recipients and invited them to her home for lunches and dinners–a tradition she maintained since the scholarship fund was established.
In 2005 the College announced it would dedicate one of its three Gold LEED certified residence halls, The John W. and Virginia Atherton Residence Hall, in honor of President and Mrs. Atherton, which pleased her so much that during her monthly lunches with Emeritus Professor Lee Munroe she would often ask to drive by so she could check on the building’s construction progress. The Atherton building opened in fall 2007 and she participated in the celebration.
Virginia Atherton will be greatly missed by everyone fortunate to know her and will be remembered as a great and wry conversationalist, a wonderful hostess, a kind and caring individual, a fantastic bridge player, a Claremont historian and a beloved member of the Pitzer College community.
Three children survive Mrs. Atherton and her husband President Atherton: John Jr., Thomas and Carolyn; four grandchildren: Anne, John, Jenne, and Matthew; and three great-grandchildren: Esamine, Burdine and Adelle.
A memorial service is being planned and when more information becomes available it will be shared with the Pitzer community. In lieu of flowers please direct donations to the John W. Atherton Scholarship and Esther Stewart Richards Scholarship at Pitzer College.