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Spring 2003
Volume 39, No. 3
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PCMOnline Editor
Sarah Dolinar

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» Read Letters to the Editor

Hellos and Goodbyes

Letter from the Editor

A college president is remembered for a word, a deed, a gesture—something personal to each one of us. A presidency, however, is remembered for more enduring things. It is, after all, a slice of history, to be evaluated in the hard light of lasting accomplishments. That is why the task of selecting a new president is such a daunting one. As one past member of a presidential search committee put it, “You don’t really know how well you’ve done until 10 or 12 years down the line.”

Stepping down after more than a decade, Peter Stanley himself will be remembered for many little things—his ramrod posture, his eloquent turn of phrase, his determined civility even when provoked, his piercing intellect, his kindness in times of strain, his good-natured cameo as the Wizard of Oz in a staff spoof… That’s just part of my personal list. Others are sure to have lists of their own, compilations of memories, good and bad, but rarely indifferent. Presidents, you see, tend to rouse strong emotions one way or the other.

The Stanley presidency, however, will in all likelihood be remembered for one very big thing—the fact that it coincided with one of the greatest periods of achievement, confidence and financial strength in Pomona history. That’s pretty much a documented fact. In recent years, both applications and SAT scores have soared. Impressive new facilities range from the high-tech Andrew Building to the imposing Smith Campus Center, and a cycle of renovations has virtually banished deferred maintenance. Meanwhile, the endowment has grown from $300 million to more than $1 billion. And those are just a few of the tangibles.

Of course, Peter Stanley would be the first to point out that the credit for such things belongs to many. It all happened, however, on this president’s watch, and the significance of that should not be underestimated. The truth is that institutional progress is by its nature a messy process. It takes a remarkable array of skills to manage it successfully. The correct analogy here isn’t, perhaps, the firm hand on the helm, but the polyglot diplomat finding common ground between competing factions, the person whose determined civility slowly wears down walls.

Now, of course, it’s time to say good-bye. And hello.

Saying good-bye to a president, reflecting upon the little gestures and the big accomplishments, offering a small measure of the public gratitude an institution wants to express at the end of such a long and successful presidency—that is one important duty for an alumni magazine. Introducing a new president to the College family, exploring a life of thought, deed, accomplishment and style as preparation for the challenge of the presidency of this institution at this point in time—that is another important duty.

In this issue, we try to do both—the look back and the look forward—in one exuberant swoop. We do this because, to be honest, this is the way we experience such times. For better or worse, the magic of times of transition is in the way they combine the nostalgia of the known with the excitement of the not-yet-known. Pomona is not yet finished saying thank you to Peter Stanley, but at the same time, it has scarcely begun the process of saying welcome to David Oxtoby.

—Mark Wood


Letters to the Editor

Presidential Achievements
I was excited to have read in the Winter ’02 edition of PCM of Cecilia Conrad’s selection as California Professor of the Year for her fine work in economics. That Nicole Weekes and Katherine Hagedorm were previously honored speaks volumes about the quality of teaching offered by Pomona. It also served as a reminder that considerable credit for accomplishments such as theirs must be tendered to President Peter Stanley. The efforts of free thinkers like Conrad, Weekes, and Hagedorm substantiate a liberal arts education as envisioned by Dr. Stanley at a time in our educational history when specialization seems the theme.

It was interesting to learn also of Edward Copeland’s retention of connectedness with former students, the imaginative art of James Turrell ’65, and the seismic preparedness efforts of Bryan Tucker ’67, Pomona family all. We owe much to them for their grand accomplishments toward the betterment of others’ lives, which favorably reflect upon the Pomona experience.

Naturally, such endeavors are possible only when a college establishes a milieu that allows for action decisions to be grounded in vision and a willingness to reach beyond that which is “safe” and protective of the status quo.

In my many visits to liberal arts campuses across our country and overseas, I have discovered a striking correlation between those colleges that support progressive leadership and the attraction of ambitious students and a creative faculty. Pomona has followed such a course. Much gratitude must be extended to the most recent overseer of the college’s philosophical path and of the definer of even broader dimensions to a liberal arts education, President Peter Stanley. Jinx and I join the Pomona community in wishing the Stanleys the best in the years ahead.

—Curt Tong
Professor of Physical Education and Director of Athletics Emeritus
Williamstown, MA

Creativity and Aging
Creativity [topic of the Winter 2002 PCM] is important, but let’s get more real (and maybe down and dirty) over the sad plight of increasing numbers of neglected, unwanted old people in our society. The “determined upbeat” descriptions of the happy attainments of the aged by our media is unreal—and cruelly neglects the bald truth about most of them: Talk about persona non grata, they are it—poor underappreciated, in the way of our fast-moving society.

No one wants to go to a nursing (convalescent) home, but there is nowhere else to go when helpless. If you really knew what these places are like, you would not put your worst enemy there.

This is spoken by an old Stanford-Pomona RN of 81 years who knows of what she speaks.

Will our current vaunted modern society show the “creativity” to turn this situation around? Now it’s even difficult to die in one’s own home with sufficient money because of being at the mercy of low-caliber, poorly trained help available—not to mention “untrustworthy.”

To America’s shame we have arrived at this point (in the old days other great cultures at least cared for their aged in families). Do you dare to face this problem with your ballyhooed creativity?

Think about it as a possible next subject for PCM (not a pleasant topic).

—Jo Jean DeCristoforo
Sacramento, CA

Prophetic Letter
My mom (Jackie Keyser Thomas Showalter ’66) found the following letter among a bunch of mementos and gave it to me:

Dear Jackie,

Congratulations on the arrival of your baby daughter! We were delighted to have your note today, and although we shall miss you on Thursday evening, we are very happy for you. Will she be a member of Pomona’s class of 1988?

With very best wishes,
Carolyn B. Lyon
April 22, 1966

I got a kick out of it and thought you would too.

—Suzanne Thomas Macdonald ’88
Ukiah, CA

Editor’s Note: This letter arrived with two enclosures: a photocopy of the cited letter from Carolyn Lyon, wife of Pomona President E. Wilson Lyon, and a birth announcement for Elizabeth Therese Macdonald, born to Paul and Suzanne Macdonald on Oct. 5, 2002 (see Births). So the obvious question is: Will she be a member of Pomona’s class of 2024?

Pauley’s Rightful Year
I’m sure I’m not the first to point out that Dr. Steve Pauley mentioned in Cynthia Peters’ charming story about Fred Sontag’s 50 years at Pomona [in the Fall 2002 PCM] is in the Class of 1962, and put our class on the map with his very generous gifts to the college in honor of our 40th reunion in May of this year. His wife, the lovely Marylyn Prosser Pauley, is in the Class of 1964. I’m sure the Class of ’64 would like to claim them both, but we had dibs first.

—Bonnie Bennett Home ’62
San Jose, CA

Sontag Memories
Congratulations on your wonderful story in the Fall 2002 issue of PCM on Fred Sontag. I saw Fred at the recent Capital Campaign dinner on campus and, of course, he very much appreciates your good writing in the magazine.

Your article caused me to reflect. When I started out as a freshman in 1952 at Pomona, while I never had a class with Fred, I did become good friends with him and liked his tough style, as it was perceived in those days. When I graduated I came to Washington, and Fred was always fascinated to hear my stories about the nation’s capital whenever we got together on campus or elsewhere.

In retrospect, as Fred completes 50 years at the College, I am also completing 50 years in Washington, having arrived in 1956. Even now I have been classed the senior federal advocate in the nation’s capital and most recently “dean of the federal lobbying corps.” So I read with interest your “50 years” and again send congratulations.

—Del Smith ’55
Washington, DC

A Prank of a Different Color
A previous issue of PCM suggested that we alumni inform you about pranks we participated in during our time at that wonderful school [see “The Prankster’s Rules,” Spring 2002 PCM]. I am enclosing an account of perhaps one of the most truly unique pranks ever in Pomona’s history. I realize that my submission is late, but I thought you should have it anyway.

During the spring of 1948, a group of students led by Jim Steere, student body president for that year, pulled off one of the most unique pranks ever in the annals of that wonderful Claremont institution. Jim had a handsome gelding named Stormy, nearly all white in color, which he kept in a corral several of us built just east of Harwood in the “Wash.”

At that time, Jim occupied a single room in Clark Hall, on the top floor of the three-story section of the dormitory. Several friends were in the eight rooms on that floor, including Harold Witherbee ’49, now a physician in Claremont. One Friday evening, Witherbee had a date with a girl from Scripps, while most of his friends, including Jim and myself, were “idle.” Knowing that he would be out for the evening prompted us to commence our prank, knowing that we had plenty of time.

We proceeded to lead Stormy from his corral to Clark, negotiated the three floors of stairs quickly, and took the horse into Witherbee’s room. The first thing the horse did was deposit his “apples.” The horse then stood quietly looking out the window, its posterior just inside the entrance door. We pinned a sign which read “From one to another” on Stormy’s tail, then settled down to wait for Harold. Jim stayed inside
the room with a camera to catch Witherbee’s reaction.

A couple of hours went by before we heard Witherbee trudging up the stairs. He opened his door, mumbled something, then backed out into the hall. He was shocked, but his calm nature prevented any real outburst. He looked around and simply advised us that we’d better get that damned horse out of his room.

The most difficult part of the prank then commenced. That involved getting Stormy back down the three flights of stairs. The horse balked intensely at first, so much so that we wondered if he might spend the entire night with us. Finally, with much urging, Jim was successful, so back to the corral the horse went. There was a photograph, but alas, it was lost long ago.

—Craig W. Tyler ’50
Dallas, TX

We welcome letters about the College or magazine. Letters may be edited for length, style and clarity. When a letter raises significant questions, an appropriate respondent may be invited to reply. The editor reserves the right to cut off debate on an issue after a reasonable period of time.