David Oxtoby became the ninth President of Pomona College in Claremont, California, in July 2003. An internationally-known physical chemist, he previously served as Dean of the Division of Physical Sciences at the University of Chicago where he was William Rainey Harper Distinguished Service Professor. At Pomona College, he is also Professor of Chemistry, and annually teaches a course in environmental chemistry.
Under President Oxtoby's leadership, the College has launched initiatives in sustainability—including integrated academic and campus planning and an office of sustainability—completed four new academic buildings and two new residence halls, and carried out renovations of several historic campus buildings. Pomona has maintained a commitment to meet 100 percent of students' demonstrated financial need through scholarships and financial aid, and has replaced loans with grants in student-aid packages, in order to enhance low-income and under-represented students' access to a Pomona College education. In 2009, Pomona established the Draper Center for Community Partnerships, which includes a long-term commitment to the Pomona College Academy for Youth Success (PAYS) serving historically under-represented high school students. In addition, Pomona has adopted a new General Education curriculum, added new departments of Computer Science, Media Studies, and Neuroscience, and has expanded the faculty with particular emphasis on interdisciplinary programs such as Environmental Analysis and International Relations.
President Oxtoby has been particularly supportive of the arts, leading efforts to increase resources, visibility, and capacity. These efforts have resulted in a revitalization of the Pomona College Museum of Art, faculty positions in creative writing, theatre, and dance, the inclusion of arts programming and facilities in the College's Strategic Plan, and a commitment to public art exemplified by the installation of Pomona College alumnus James Turrell's Skyspace, Dividing the Light, in 2007. The importance of creativity is a key theme for President Oxtoby. September 2015 brought the opening of the Rick and Susan Sontag Center for Collaborative Creativity, serving the five undergraduate institutions of The Claremont Colleges, the distinctive consortium in which Pomona is the founding member.
Born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, President Oxtoby received his bachelor's degree in chemistry and physics summa cum laude from Harvard University in 1972 and his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley in 1975. He joined the faculty of the University of Chicago in 1977, rising through the ranks to become full professor in 1986. As a research chemist, he is author or co-author of numerous scientific articles on such subjects as light scattering, chemical reaction dynamics and phase transitions. He has been invited as guest lecturer to conferences and institutions around the globe, and is the co-author of two first-year chemistry textbooks. He has been a visiting professor at the University of Paris, the University of Bristol, and the University of Sydney, as well as a Visiting Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge University. His work has been recognized through fellowships from the Guggenheim, Sloan, Dreyfus, von Humboldt, Danforth, and National Science foundations. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a member of the American Chemical Society. In 2012, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
President Oxtoby is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and currently serves on the Boards of Institute for the International Education of Students, and the Claremont University Consortium Board of Overseers. He also serves on the Science Education Board of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He was a member of the Presidential Advisory Committee of the Research Corporation for Science Advancement, the National Science Foundation's Mathematics and Physical Science Advisory Committee and the Advisory Committee on Cyberinfrastructure, the Board of Argonne National Laboratory, Toyota Technological Institute-Chicago, Harvard University's Board of Overseers, which he chaired in 2013, the boards of trustees of the Webb Schools, Bryn Mawr College, the Consortium on Financing Higher Education (COFHE) and the Association of American Colleges and Universities, which he chaired in 2010. He received honorary degrees from Occidental College (2005) and Lingnan University in Hong Kong (2009).
David Oxtoby and his wife Claire have three children: Mary Christina (Vassar '04), John (Harvard '07), and Laura (Carleton '08).