Dear Pitzer Community,

It is with great sadness that I inform you of the passing of Former Pitzer President Frank L. Ellsworth, professor of political science and the third president of the College. He died peacefully at his home on Sunday, October 20, 2019. He was 76 years old.

Ellsworth at 36, was the youngest president ever appointed to head a Claremont College in 1979. During his 12-year tenure, Frank was known for his love of students, his upbeat personality and for his work in strengthening Pitzer financially in both budget and endowment. He thrived on working with Pitzer students, alums, faculty and staff. During the same period, he received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Case Western Reserve University (1981) and the Tree of Life Award from the United Jewish Fund (1991). The Tree of Life Award is the highest humanitarian award the Jewish National Fund presents to an individual each year. It recognizes community involvement, dedication to American-Israeli friendship and devotion to peace.

Prior to Pitzer, Frank worked in many areas of higher education, including as an assistant director of development at Columbia Law School; director of special projects and professor of literature at Sarah Lawrence College, assistant dean of University of Chicago’s Law School and an instructor of social science collegiate division at the University of Chicago.

Frank earned his PhD in the history of education at the University of Chicago, his MA in literature at Columbia University, his MEd at Pennsylvania State University in 1967 and his AB in English and religion at Case Western Reserve University in 1965. He received honorary degrees from the Art Center College of Design, Southwestern University School of Law and Pepperdine University.

I met Frank at my inauguration ceremony in March 2017. I remember his presence at that critical moment in my Pitzer career and appreciated his support and gracious toast to my success. I will cherish the photo we took after the ceremony with his daughter Kirstin and remember his good humor, his kind and generous spirit.

In Spring 1991, Frank recalled that one of his goals when he came to Pitzer in 1979 was “to help establish a multicultural educational program and environment that would foster intercultural understanding and respect.” As we invest ourselves in these deeply held values today, I will think of Frank’s words as they echo across the decades to the present.

In his last president’s message to appear in The Participant, he wrote, “This College is distinctive in its willingness to grow, change and take risks. And in my time as president, I have had the opportunity to grow, change and take risks along with the institution in ways that would not have been possible anywhere else.”

He left Pitzer in 1991 to become president of the Independent Colleges of Southern California for six years. After that, he served as vice president of Capital Research and Management Company; and as interim president at the Art Center College of Design (Pasadena, CA) and Sofia University (Palo Alto, CA). Frank lived his dedication to social responsibility in his service on the board of Southwestern University School of Law and the Advisory Committee of the Japanese American Community Cultural Center in Los Angeles. Frank loved Japanese art and was an avid collector and scholar. He was the founder and chair of Global Partners Institute in Vancouver BC and worked closely and warmly with Mr. Masaru Kurahashi from his Pitzer days to his final days. He was also on the Advisory Committee of the International College of the Liberal Arts (iCLA) at Yamanashi University and a Pitzer College Life Trustee.

Pitzer College will remember Frank Ellsworth in so many ways, perhaps most notably, as we walk past the dedication plaque in The Ellsworth Garden outside the Grove House.

I know you join Suzanne and me in extending our deepest condolences to his daughter, Kirstin, along with his entire family and friends.


Melvin L. Oliver