Joint Science Department Becomes the W.M. Keck Science Department of Claremont McKenna College, Pitzer College and Scripps College

Claremont, Calif. (Sept. 2, 2011) โ€” Claremont McKenna, Pitzer, and Scripps colleges today formally announced the renaming of their shared Joint Science Department to be known as the W.M. Keck Science Department of Claremont McKenna College, Pitzer College and Scripps College.

The new name designation honors the W.M. Keck Foundation for their long-term support that began more than two and a half decades ago with an initial gift of $750,000 to the Colleges in 1983, which was split between CMC, Pitzer, and Scripps to fund student summer research as well as faculty research. Five years later in 1988, the Foundation awarded a grant of $6.5 million to Scripps College to build the current science facility.

The new name change was approved by the W.M. Keck Foundation in a letter signed by Keck Foundation Chairman and President Robert A. Day, who also is an alumnus and Trustee of Claremont McKenna College.

“Science education is an essential component of a liberal arts experience,” said Pamela Gann, president of Claremont McKenna College. “The distinguishing advantage offered through the W. M. Keck Science Department,” adds Pitzer President Laura Skandera Trombley, “is the dedicated focus on undergraduate education, enabling our three colleges to offer small classes at both the introductory and advanced levels.”

Lori Bettison-Varga, Scripps College president, continued, “This provides a more personalized approach to science education where science faculty and students can work side-by-side.”

The W.M. Keck Science Department is housed in an 81,000 square foot building at the intersection of the three campuses, and its annual enrollments have grown steadily over the past two decades, reaching a total of almost 3,000 in 2010โ€“2011. It is also, notes Gann, “The single-largest department among all of The Claremont Colleges. As such, a second, much needed, facility is being considered.”

Responding to the name change, Dean of the Science Department and Professor of Chemistry David Hansen said the department is “enormously grateful for the decades of support the W.M. Keck Foundation has provided each of the three Colleges over the years.” The Keck name has become synonymous with daily campus life, through programs and facilities benefiting students and faculty.

“After years of their gracious support, we are most excited,” Hansen added, “that the department will now carry the name of the Foundation.”

Initially formed in 1964 as the Joint Science Program, it offers courses to science and nonscience majors within the three disciplines of biology, chemistry and physics. Students are offered 14 discrete degree programs, a number of them providing comprehensive instruction in more than one scientific discipline. In addition, they can pursue dual-degree programs in partnership with schools of engineering or a double major with a discipline outside of the sciences.

Following graduation, many of the 100 plus students who major each year in the department go on to pursue advanced degrees in science, medicine, and other health professions at schools including UCSF, UCLA, UC Irvine, UC Davis, Stanford, USC, Washington University (St. Louis), Harvard, Penn, Yale, Chicago, and Johns Hopkins. Others become teachers or earn a second degree in engineering through one of the department’s dual programs.

Students who have enrolled at The Claremont Colleges and major in the sciences consistently share stories of being inspired by the opportunity to build their science studies on solid liberal arts foundations. They also value the small-school experience that provides invaluable hands-on, undergraduate research opportunities, including possible publication of their research.

Along with expanding resources and a growing student body and faculty, the department also prides itself on expanding research opportunities for its undergrads. Between 2003 and 2010, more than 150 JSD students were co-authors with faculty on peer-reviewed articles or published abstracts. Since 2003, more than 100 students have also had their work accepted for presentation at professional scientific meetings, including those held by the American Chemical Society, the

Society for Neuroscience, the American Physical Society, the American Society for Cell Biology, the Genetics Society of America, and the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology.

Majors now offered by the department are astronomy (a joint program with Harvey Mudd and Pomona Colleges); biology; biochemistry; chemistry; economics and engineering; environment, economics and politics; environmental analysis; human biology (Pitzer); management-engineering/3-2 engineering; molecular biology; neuroscience; organismal biology; physics; and science and management.

For further information on the W.M Keck Science Department, please visit

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About Pitzer College

Pitzer College is a nationally top-ranked undergraduate liberal arts and sciences institution. A member of The Claremont Colleges, Pitzer offers a distinctive approach to a liberal arts education by linking intellectual inquiry with interdisciplinary studies, cultural immersion, social responsibility, and community involvement. For more information, please visit

About the W.M. Keck Science Department

The W.M. Keck Science Department is the interdisciplinary home to all biology, chemistry, and physics faculty for Pitzer, Claremont McKenna and Scripps colleges. The department is administered cooperatively and is housed within an 81,000-square-foot center located at the intersection of the three colleges. The department offers 13 discrete degree options, including dual-degree programs in partnership with schools of engineering and majors in conjunction with disciplines outside the sciences. The W.M. Keck Science Department provides comprehensive, interdisciplinary instruction in small class settings and numerous opportunities for students to conduct research.

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