Claremont, Calif. (February 4, 2022)—In a message to the Pitzer College community, President Melvin L. Oliver announced his plans to retire, effective June 30, 2022.
“After a career of 45 years serving higher education and philanthropy, I want to share with you that I have given notice to the Board of Trustees that I will retire at the end of this academic year,” Oliver wrote.
A leader in higher education, an award-winning professor, and the co-author of the seminal book Black Wealth/White Wealth, Oliver joined Pitzer in 2016 as the College’s sixth president. He came to the Claremont campus from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he served as the executive dean of the College of Letters and Science.
“Being the sixth president of Pitzer College has been a privilege and an honor,” Oliver wrote.
Donald P. Gould, the chair of the Pitzer College Board of Trustees, said the College and the Board will be forever grateful for President Oliver’s service to Pitzer.
“President Oliver has calmly and skillfully navigated the College through a period of unprecedented challenges during his tenure,” Gould said. “He has done so while staying true to the College’s core values and pushing Pitzer forward in its educational mission. President Oliver will leave the College in a much stronger place than when he arrived.”
During his tenure, President Oliver oversaw the development of a new strategic plan, helped develop a vision for an expanded science program, created Pitzer’s Racial Justice Initiative, and coordinated the College’s response to a global pandemic, to name just a few of the many accomplishments Gould said the College will celebrate in the months ahead.
Gould also announced that Trustee Tom Brock ’83, director of Columbia University’s Community College Research Center, will chair the soon-to-be-formed presidential search committee. The Board will plan a nationwide, inclusive search process and aim to have Pitzer’s next president take office by the start of the 2023-24 academic year. An interim president, who will take office on July 1, 2022, will be named in the coming weeks.
President Oliver’s 45-year career spans top institutions of higher education and philanthropy. A first-generation college student, Oliver earned his BA at William Penn College and his MA and PhD from Washington University in St. Louis. He went on to teach sociology for nearly 20 years at UCLA, where he was named California Professor of the Year and became the founding co-director of the UCLA Center for the Study of Urban Poverty.
In 1995, the publication of his book Black Wealth/White Wealth: A New Perspective on Racial Inequality, co-authored with Thomas M. Shapiro, fundamentally shifted the understanding of the relationship between race, wealth, and inequality in the US. A year later, the Ford Foundation announced Oliver as the vice president of its Asset Building and Community Development Program. He later returned to academia at UC Santa Barbara, where he taught sociology and served as the dean of social sciences for a dozen years. Throughout his career, the acclaimed sociologist has promoted faculty diversity and championed increased access for underrepresented students.
In his message to the Pitzer community, President Oliver said he and his wife, Suzanne, are looking forward to the next stage of their lives and that he is confident in the bright future ahead for the College.
“As a result of our collective efforts, Pitzer College is primed to continue doing great things,” he wrote. “I will forever be a cheerleader and supporter of Pitzer College.”
President Oliver’s message can be read in full on the Office of the President’s page.
Board Chair Donald P. Gould’s message is available on the Pitzer College Board of Trustees page.