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Pitzer College Receives Largest Gift in its History from Roger C. Holden

Pitzer College meant more to Roger C. Holden than he ever possibly could have imagined. In 1968 Holden, an early member of Pitzer’s Board of Trustees, bequeathed his Laguna Beach home to Pitzer College, at the time valued at $134,000. In September, escrow on the property closed with a sale price of $15 million—currently among the top five highest sales for a single family residence in Orange County in 2006. It is the largest gift in the College’s history.

Holden was recruited to the Pitzer College Board of Trustees by fellow Amherst alumnus and founding president of Pitzer College, the late John Atherton. After the gifts of Mr. and Mrs. Russell K. Pitzer to found and endow Pitzer College, Holden provided the College with its most significant early gifts: the establishment of the Sylvia Sticha Holden Scholarship Fund, in honor of his wife, and the construction funds for the residence hall that bears his name, Holden Hall.
Holden was born in 1897 in Palmer, Massachusetts. He graduated from Amherst College and served in the U.S. Navy during World War I. While working in Chicago, Holden met and married Sylvia Sticha. Holden began his business career as an automobile salesman and pursued other fields including news reporting, public relations and fundraising. His greatest single interest was in investments—stocks, bonds and real estate.

Holden House

From the late 1950s to the time of his death in 1968, Holden worked in a volunteer capacity as the president of the Symphony Association of Orange County. He was also active with many Orange County organizations including the South Coast Community Hospital, the South Orange County Chapter of the Red Cross, the Laguna Art Association and the Orange County Coast Association.
Until her passing in 2006, Holden’s widow Sylvia Holden Robb, who later married Dr. Robert Cumming Robb (1903-1992), lived in the home on the property. She remained a good friend of Virginia Atherton, wife of President John Atherton, for more than forty years. “During a visit to Mrs. Robb’s house, I was very touched to see a copy of the College’s alumni magazine on her coffee table,” said President Laura Skandera Trombley.

“Mr. Holden’s generous gift will be applied to strengthening our academic program, funding student scholarships and helping with other key initiatives of our strategic plan. We are extremely grateful for our great friend who believed in Pitzer College,” Trombley said.

Pitzer College Founders



Alan Jones