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December 14, 2023

Dear Pitzer Community,

It is with sadness that I share the news that Pitzer College Professor Emeritus Albert “Al” Schwartz passed away on Saturday, December 9, 2023.

While I didn’t know Al personally, I have enjoyed learning about the tremendous impact he had on the College and our students, particularly during the first thirty years of Pitzer’s existence.

Al was the first sociologist hired at Pitzer, in 1965, and over the course of his time at the College he served in several leadership positions, including Dean of Faculty (1971-1977), Dean of Students (1977-1978), and Special Assistant to the President (1982-1983). Through it all, he continued to teach up until his retirement in 1995. His areas of expertise included construction of social and personal realities; crowds and fads; sports; and deviance. He was also a popular media commentator on the sociology of Super Bowl viewing.

As some of you are aware, the New Resources Program at Pitzer College was originally founded under Al Schwartz’s name. The focus of the program, which began in 1974, has been to make the small liberal arts college experience available to non-traditional aged students, who in turn would bring new backgrounds, perspectives and interests to the College. Al cared deeply about the New Resources program, our students and the College.

As one of Pitzer’s earliest faculty members, Al saw an “academic heaven” with “extraordinary students and comradeship among faculty.” He described his early days at Pitzer as “heady times, the first six or seven years. We were trying to create an institution that reflected the ideals of the people who came together at that time. Our good fortune was that we had the human resources to build a community.” The new college opened at a time of radical social change. “There were really … important problems out there,” Schwartz said. “The Vietnam War [and] the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King made the world appear a dangerous place. Yet the students exuded hope …. They trusted the world enough to walk around in bare feet.”

Please join me in offering condolences to Al’s family, in particular to his wife, Pitzer Professor Emerita Jill Benton. Jill shares that a gathering in Al’s memory is being planned for mid-June 2024.

In Sympathy,

Strom C. Thacker

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