Residence Halls Dedication Speech: Rick Sontag
This speech was delivered on October 1, 2011, at the dedication of Pomona Hall and Sontag Hall, Pomona's two newest residence halls. Read more and view photos from the dedication program.
I’m not sure what the dorm dedication equivalent of a ship christening is. But I’m sure that over the years this hall will see its share of celebrations that will include the appropriate broken bottles. As far as our family is concerned that should serve the same purpose.
If someone had told me when I was younger that one day my name will be in bronze, I’d probably tell him that the only way that will happen is if I die with enough money to pay for a nice memorial tablet on my tombstone. Now we have a bronze plaque with not just my name – but the names of a number of our family members--proudly standing outside this residence hall which bears the Sontag name. I think our family is still a little overawed.
It’s difficult to believe that it has been several years since David Oxtoby and I had that first talk about this dorm project. At that time all he had to show Susan and me was a brief project description and an artist’s conceptual rendering of what the finished dorm would look like. But it was enough for us to give David our enthusiastic endorsement.
The first real evidence we had that the project was taking shape was a set of photos sent to us right after the beginning excavation was done. Then the college set up a webcam so we could see the construction live over the internet. It was amazing to watch at a distance as the building was erected and finished to be the beautiful structure we now see. And with the final touch of having students populate it, I’d like to say how pleased we are with the final product. And how humbled our entire family is to be able to leave a lasting memorial like this at Pomona.
This definitely is an important event for our family. It is wonderful to sponsor a project like this. But more importantly it is hopefully a reminder to others that giving back to institutions and causes that affected your life and career is not only an honor and a privilege. In my view, it is an obligation.
Our family was deeply influenced by Pomona College. My wife Susan and daughter Cindy grew into adulthood while they were students here. My cousins Grant and Anne were immersed in the Claremont culture and formed their personalities while they were raised here. My Aunt Carol built most of her adult life around the college community. And, of course, my Uncle Fred had an important influence on the college just as Pomona had a strong influence on him. Institutions like Pomona can be a major factor in determining the course of people’s lives. That’s why I think it is important to leave more than memories behind whenever you get a chance.
It’s exciting to think that over the course of the next several decades there may be thousands of students who will have the opportunity to live in this dorm and develop into mature adults. And maybe some of these students will pass by that bronze memorial plaque on the wall bearing the names of Sontag family members and wonder--who is this Sontag family and why did they feel compelled to sponsor the construction of this building? If by asking this question, it triggers a thought that eventually leads to their giving back in some comparable way, our family will have made an even more significant gift to Pomona.