Shahan Soghikian ’80: Engaged Pitzer College Trustee

As a Pitzer College alumnus and current member of the Board of Trustees, Shahan Soghikian ’80 shares his unique perspective of Pitzer College’s evolution through the years.


As I was digging through some of my photo archives, I found a lot of cool stuff, particularly related to music. Let’s give you a sense of what this all looked like. So there’s me playing the guitar as a member of the Stiffs. This is the Collage which is the student newspaper, and this is the Kohoutek Festival edition, April 1978. And in here was a little article about punk rockin’ with the Stiffs in the Pit. This photograph, take a look in the background. This is the Pit. Look at how crowded that was. Here’s the original Stiffs poster. What you’ll note is $1 admission; that was pretty good deal. But you get what you pay for. My favorite memories are the people and the environment, and then the shared experiences I had when I was there.

My name is Shahan Soghikian and I graduated in 1980 from Pitzer College. I went to college thinking I was going to go to medical school. My dad was a doc and his dad was a doc and I wasn’t really a very good student, to be honest. And my dad in his infinite wisdom said, “We think you should be closer to home, and we think you’d do better in a smaller environment,” and I landed at Pitzer. Being a biology major, I lived at joint science; what was then joint science is now Keck Science. Two-thirds of my time I was in a concrete building a couple blocks away from campus. I have fantastic memories of David Sadava who was my advisor and taught four of my classes in joint science. He’s a wonderful human being. He’s a great humanitarian, he is a great scientist, wonderful teacher, amazingly patient. And as I reflect on the decision that I made to go to Pitzer, it was for people like him. He took me in when I was struggling and once the light bulb went off, it sent me on my way. You just don’t get that in a bigger university environment, but you get that at Pitzer College.

I admit that for many years after I graduated, I had no contact with the college. And that’s a mistake. Looking back now, I think you should have more touch with the place that sort of enabled you to transition from what was your home life with your parents to your independent life with whatever career that you decided to launch. I wanted to kind of find out what was happening at Pitzer College, so I ended up joining the board and becoming involved. The trustee commitment is to be engaged; it’s not there as an honorary thing. We have a working board; the number one trait of a trustee is that you commit the time to be engaged and bring your skills to bear on the issues that you’re asked to be involved with. Everybody is asked to support the college financially because it’s important that we show that to the outside world, you’re all in for the institution if you’re there. I think colleges change people because they expose you to many, many things you’ve never seen. I think it made me a more whole person and that connection to my Pitzer experience now as a trustee is a really nice bookend and has become very, very rewarding.

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