Letter from the Editor
Myths of California
California gets a bum rap from the rest of the country. I say this from
personal experience, having been on both sides of that cultural divide.
Back when I lived in what’s known as the Mid-South, I recall smugly
telling a European friend who was planning his first American visit that
there was New York City over here, California way out there, and in
between, there was the good old U.S. of A., and that he should be
careful not to confuse either of the first two with the latter. I said
that with snide confidence, despite the fact that in those days I’d
never been west
of the 100th meridian. I’d spent some time in New York, but all
I knew about California was what I’d read and what I’d seen
projected on various screens. But here’s what I thought I knew:
1. California was a perilously shaky place. With the Really Big One
always waiting in the wings, the quake that might just drop half the
state into the sea, I thought Californians must live with blinders on.
They were those allegorical folks who’d made a deal with the devil and
now must pay for their sunny paradise by living cheek by jowl with
2. California—particularly, Southern California—could be harmful to your
health in other ways as well. Filthy air, stressful highway commutes,
raging wildfires, you name it.
3. And finally, California was just plain weird. It was a place of
excess and unapologetic eccentricity, the home of Hollywood, flower
power, tax revolts, the O.J. Simpson trial, and two controversial
presidents—one noted for his tapes, the other for his Teflon.
When I came out to Claremont to interview for this job, it was against
my better judgment. The attraction was Pomona. The problem was
California. My family fell in love with Claremont, however, and so we
made the move.
Since then, I’ve changed my mind about some things, gotten some
perspective on others, and of still others I remain firmly convinced.
Politically, at least, California is weird, and proudly so. Whatever you
think of our new governor—love him or hate him—you have to admit that
electing a former Austrian bodybuilder and action hero is inviting a bit
The air in Claremont has been a nice surprise. Usually pleasant, it does
sometimes get, to use the popular euphemism, a
bit hazy, but it’s rarely bothersome. I stay off freeways religiously,
so that’s not a problem—for me, anyway. And despite the ongoing
mythmaking concerning California quakes—NBC’s “10.5”
miniseries is a good case in point—I’ve come to understand that
Europeans, rightly, see the entire U.S. as most Americans see
California. The whole country’s a huge disaster row, and all you can do
is pick your poison—quakes in the West, hurricanes in the East,
tornadoes throughout the south and the Great Plains, and blizzards up
north. I’ve seen a tornado at close range back home in Arkansas, and
personally, I’ll take my chances with an earthquake.
Besides, I’ve fallen in love with this state. It’s immensely varied,
rich and beautiful. As this issue attests, it offers an amazing wealth
of worthwhile things to do with your time. So if a quake or two is the
price of this diabolical deal, I’m just glad I signed.
Letters to the Editor
Since I have just recently migrated over to Space Physics, I looked with
great interest at the spring 2004 PCM, titled “The Heavens.” Where’s
WMAP? Also the Crab Nebula and The Hubble Space Telescope? WMAP is the
Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe which gave us a new Hubble Constant
and a new age of the universe.
Though I’m rather new to this end of physics, I gave my second paper on
adaptive optics at the Annual Meeting of SPIE (the International Society
for Optical Engineering) in Denver, on August 2, 2004.
As I struggled to learn how to operate a small digital telescope, I came
across the astronomy notes of my grandfather, George E. Hume, Class of
1904, including notes on a seminar on the sun’s distance determination,
April 28, 1904, as well as many star positions. George E. Hume is in the
photograph of the Class of ’04 in PCM’s issue on Diversity (Winter
2003). He is in the 3rd row and resembles a youthful Charlie Chaplin. He
won the class Prize in Mathematics which we still have. His notes may be
Pomona’s oldest record of astronomy. I think he would find WMAP very
—Katharine J. Jones ’61
The latest magazine cover is captivating, the subject matter passé. In
his article, “Ad Astra or Ad Asterisk,” Mark Oderman ’78 states his
reasons for this situation with great insight: “Bureaucratic sclerosis,
engineering hubris and political self-doubt appear to have replaced the
‘Right Stuff’ as the drivers of the national space effort.” I would like
to add another
possible reason for the nation’s loss
of interest. The driving power and the solid motivation for
accomplishment and excellence has been provided, at least in part, by a
society undergirded by the Judeo-Christian ethic. The consensus about
the rightness of that ethic is being discarded as not valid any more—and
not an organizing societal force for greatness.
—Jo Jean DeCristoforo ’43
I read with sadness of the death of Professor Whedbee. I took Dr.
Whedbee’s course, The Biblical Heritage, as an elective, on a whim.
There was a gap in my schedule;
I knew others who were taking the class; and it met at a favorable time
of day. A friend told me, “The professor is handsome, young and dynamic.”
Dr. Whedbee did, in fact, prove to be all the things my friend had said.
Moreover, the class was wonderful—full of wonders—the best one I ever
took. When I think about what is most worthwhile about a Pomona
education, one of the things that comes to mind
is having had the opportunity to take that course.
More than 30 years later, and now a professor myself, I tell this story
to undergraduate students, and urge them to try courses outside of their
majors. I like to explain how unex¬pected the impact of this particular
course has been for me; I want to acknowledge the role of serendipity in
our lives; and I hope to encourage students to explore fields that are
new to them. After telling the story, though, I often find myself
wondering: Where will these students ever find an instructor like Dr.
—Charlotte J. Patterson ’71
I hope that you can reproduce at least a portion of the Walter Cronkite
graduation speech. Some may argue that the speech was too political.
However, I notice that the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin already
summarized a considerable amount of the speech. The Bulletin is, to say
the least, middle of the road.
—John Cranston ’53
Editor’s Note: See page 6.
As I have learned more about Pomona’s decision to allow coed roommates,
I have become more troubled by this issue. I think I should tell you of
As a longtime supporter of Pomona, I am troubled by at least three
recent events that seem to show an abandoning of important principles.
First was the article, “Politically Incorrect,” in the Winter 2004 issue
… Pomona’s failure to promote the principle of accepting and teaching
political diversity in addition to other kinds of diversity is a sad
Second was the hate crime hoax. What happened to the principle of
searching out the truth…first and then acting accordingly?
The third event occurred at the 50th reunion of the Class of ’54. An
administration official told the class that the College has decided to
allow coed roommates. I’m sure this is a popular idea with many
students—it would have been popular even 50+ years ago when I was a
student! But what about the principle that the College should have
standards for behavior, rather than sinking to the lowest common
denominator? Why should the College condone a practice that is normally
offensive to many students and many (probably most) alumni?
I have to question whether I want to continue to support an institution
that seems to be following popular trends rather than giving priority to
the more challenging principles of education and high standards.
—David S. Holton ’53
Twain Harte, CA
Editor’s Note: There are several important points to make here. First,
I believe you have been misinformed on an important point: there are
coed dorms at Pomona, as there are at most of our peer colleges, but no
coed roommates. Second, the article titled “Politically Incorrect” was
about an effort on the part of a group of students, with the strong
support of the College, to bring themselves and their fellow students
into contact with a variety of well-argued political thought on all
sides of important issues. In other words, it was about an effort within
the College to encourage the kind of diversity of political discourse
that, I think, is your concern. And third, though the supposed hate
crime is now alleged to have been a hoax, at the time it provoked very
real fear and outrage on all of our campuses. As President Oxtoby has
said, the dismissal of classes the following day at all of The Claremont
Colleges wasn’t a retreat from our mission—in fact, the day was spent in
the best kind of engaged discussion and learning. —MW
After reading the articles in your “diversity” issue, I wondered if
others formed the same summary I did: 1) diversity must be forced
because it won’t happen naturally; 2) the goal of “diversity” applies
only to race; and 3) giving rights and benefits to some over others
because of their skin color isn’t racism.
Apparently, I was not alone. Judging from the vast majority of the
letters printed in the subsequent issue (Spring 2004), the two main
groups most blatantly overlooked in Pomona’s myopic definition of
diversity were the political right and non-heterosexuals. While you
responded generically that no omission was malicious, only the latter
group received assurances that their contributions merited coverage in a
Sadly it is clear that with literal adherence to its “liberal” arts
classification, the admissions board chooses to manufacture a
politically correct student body, then declare itself diverse.
I don’t know whether it’s because genuine diversity is dangerous to
liberalism, or because they’d simply prefer not to recognize the obvious
hypocrisy of their actions. But to avoid impeding the Board’s goal, I’ll
respectfully withhold future contributions to the College until I can
find currency featuring sufficiently diverse faces.
—Peter Sacks ’83
Laguna Hills, CA
We welcome letters from alumni and friends concerning past items in the
magazine or, on occasion, important issues at the College. The College
cannot publish all letters, due to the quantity received, and does not
publish anonymous letters. 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. For a full
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