Honoring Past and Present: Inaugural Founders Day Features the ‘Women of the Sixties’

founders day speakers
(Left to Right) Louise Thornton ’68, Nancy Bushnell ’69, Sara Smith ’66, Caroline Reid McAllister ’68, Mary Beth Garber ’68, and Melinda Henning ’68

Sixty years ago, Pitzer College was nothing more than a dirt field, a pile of rocks, and a dream. The founding members inspired generations of students to take ownership of their education and build a transformative community. On February 21, 2023, Pitzer hosted an inaugural Founders Day event to celebrate its sixtieth anniversary and the people who made that possible.

Dubbed the “Women of the Sixties,” the first Pitzer graduates returned to campus to share their groundbreaking history with students, faculty, and other alumni. After watching a “Pitzer Then and Now” slideshow from the 1960s to the present, community members gathered with the original Pitzer alumnae for interactive table conversations. Afterward, people perused the yearbooks and course catalogs from the College’s early days and left mementos to be placed in the Founders Day Memory Chest.

Later in the afternoon, the College’s early alumnae led a walking tour across campus. They gave insight into a multitude of black-and-white photos in McConnell Center and Scott Hall, including the town hall meetings (the beginnings of shared governance) and the founding faculty portraits. By the end of the tour, they were exchanging contact information with students and promising to see them again at Alumni Weekend.

A student with long wavy red hair and a green coat over a black dress stands next to another student with chin-length wavy blond hair and a black sweater and gray pants. The two students listen to alumna Melinda Henning who has short blond hair and wears glasses, a black sweater, and a colorful orange and red and blue scarf. Black-and-white photos from Pitzer’s beginnings line the wall behind them.
Stella Seid ’26 and Kyler Parris ’23 talk with Melinda Henning ’68

Members of Pitzer’s Trailblazers classes talked about how they charted their educational course with eagerness and innovation—a tradition that students continue to this day. Beyond the festivities, Founders Day became an opportunity for bridging generations and honoring the past and present.

Alumna and Trustee Louise Thornton ’68 put it best when she said: “When I first looked at the campus, it was blank. Dirt, rocks, and sagebrush. I came here because it was a blank page, and it just drew me. It changed my life.”

May Pitzer continue to change lives for the next 60 years and beyond.

Click on the links below to check out photos from Founders Day:

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 www.pitzer.edu.

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