Building the Science of Tomorrow

Pitzer College Trustee Jonathan Graham ’82 Makes Major Gift to Science Expansion Project

Pitzer College Trustee Jonathan Graham ’82; photo courtesy of Amgen

Pitzer College Trustee Jonathan Graham ’82 and his wife, Elizabeth Ulmer, see science as a crucial component of a liberal arts education today. Graham, who majored in economics at Pitzer and went on to earn a law degree at the University of Texas, is now the executive vice president, general counsel, and secretary of Amgen, Inc., a biotechnology company focused on creating medicines for patients with serious illnesses. 

“It is difficult to say you are well-educated in the 21st century if you have not studied one or more of the sciences,” Graham says.

Graham and Ulmer recently made a substantial donation to support Pitzer and Scripps College’s joint initiative to invigorate, expand, and reimagine the science program for the two campuses.

Since 2002, Pitzer alone has seen a 300 percent rise in the number of students enrolled in science courses or majoring in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) field. This three-fold increase in STEM students has created an urgent need to renovate and expand the existing science complex of classrooms, labs, research facilities, study spaces, and office areas.

“With the increasing popularity of science majors, we have outgrown our teaching lab facilities, both in terms of physical space and technology,” says Dean of Keck Science UJ Sofia. “Investment in the natural science programs will allow us to have enhanced student-instructor interactions in state-of-the-art labs.”

Rendering of science building expansion and renovation project

In addition to creating more and better spaces for learning science, one of the overarching objectives of the new science center capital project is to enhance and improve STEM education at Pitzer and Scripps. Increased support for the undergraduate research experience and internship opportunities in science can be transformational for students, particularly those interested in pursuing careers in science-related fields. That vision, in part, inspired Graham and Ulmer’s gift to the science center project.

“We want to make sure Pitzer students have access to excellent science professors, facilities, and equipment, so they are well prepared to confront the challenges that face our society,” Graham says. 

This is only the latest of Graham and Ulmer’s long-standing philanthropic support of Pitzer, which includes student scholarships to summer study abroad programs. Their goal in giving is to provide meaningful support to students. As one recipient of the Jonathan P. Graham ’82 and Elizabeth B. Ulmer Endowed Scholarship said, their generosity helps students achieve their goals and grow into well-rounded people.

Graham and Ulmer’s gift is an investment in Pitzer students and the future. Construction activities on the science center project recently commenced, and the building is scheduled to be completed in May 2024.