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Pomona College & the Goddess

Pomona goddess statue, located in the Organic Farm

This statue of the goddess Pomona was installed at the Farm in 2008.

The goddess Pomona appears in two places on campus--one a relief sculpture above a portal in Pomona College’s Smith Campus Center, holding a basket overflowing with fruit. (In fact, in a humorous detail, one bronze orange has fallen out of her basket and is visible on the floor below.) And the other is a larger-than-life marble sculpture at the entrance to the Organic Farm.

The link between the College and the goddess, however, is an indirect one. Though naming a college for the Roman goddess of fruit might seem perfectly natural in a region of California once dominated by orange groves, the naming of Pomona College is a more complex story. Indeed, when Pomona College was named, in 1887, the area where it now stands was mostly desert scrub.

In truth, Pomona bears the name of the town where it was founded (which was named for the goddess), though oddly enough, it held classes there for only one year. The College was incorporated on October 14, 1887, and instruction began in September 1888 in a small rented house in the newly established town of Pomona. The following January, however, an unfinished hotel (now Sumner Hall) in nearby Claremont, together with considerable adjacent property, was given to the College, which relocated there. Although the location was originally regarded as temporary, Claremont became the permanent home of the College. The name Pomona College had become so closely identified with the institution, however, that it was retained.