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In Memoriam: Lee Harlan

The director of Pomona’s alumni program from 1969-1997, Harlan managed the development of an alumni relations program that became the model for many liberal arts colleges across the country. During his tenure, Pomona’s alumni population grew from 11,000 to 18,000. To meet their needs, he developed a robust regional alumni presence throughout the U.S. and started the College’s alumni travel study program. Among the first for small liberal arts colleges, it has sent alumni to France, the Galapagos, Germany, Greece, Greenland, South Africa and Spain among many other wonderful locations. The class reunion giving program was also initiated under his guidance and now provides important financial support to the College through the Alumni Fund. Always a Sagehen, he continued to assist Pomona College as an alumni volunteer following his retirement.

Recognized by many as the consummate expert in alumni relations, Harlan mentored scores of colleagues across the country and served as a long-time volunteer for the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). He was recognized by CASE with the District VII Tribute Award for his service to the advancement profession.

At Pomona College, in addition to his alumni duties, Harlan also managed the college mail room for six years, served as director of corporate relations for two years, was instrumental in establishing the Torchbearer program for the College’s larger donors, oversaw the relocation of the Seaver House to campus in 1979, and designed literature, handled donor recognition, helped in major gift solicitation and handled special events in conjunction with a six month $1 million cash campaign to restore Little Bridges. His portrait hangs next to the front door of Seaver House and reminds all of his legacy of service to Pomona.

In addition to his dedicated service to the College, Harlan was very active in Rotary International, serving as a district governor; was an active member of the Claremont Presbyterian Church; and served on several committees at Mt. San Antonio Gardens.

A California native, Harlan was born in Los Angeles and attended El Monte Union High School and Rosemead High School. He graduated from Pomona in 1955 with an economics major. His mother, La Moyne Harlan, was also a Sagehen, graduating from Pomona College in 1925.

Harlan is survived by his wife, Joan Harlan, and his sons, Jeff and Michael. His memorial service will be held on Saturday, April 21 at 10:30 am at the Claremont Presbyterian Church (1111 N. Mountain Ave., Claremont). Contributions in his memory can be sent to Pomona College, in care of Don Pattison, 550 North College Avenue, Claremont, CA 91711, to the Lee ’55 and Joan Harlan Seaver House Fund.

Personal Tributes

Personal tributes may be submitted for this page by e-mail to

I was just heartbroken to hear this news. Lee was always so supportive of Pomona's alumni - across many generations - and never had a cross word to say about anyone or anything. He inspired me to stay involved with the college as an active alumnus, and I will sure miss his smile and big hug whenever I would see him on campus.

My deepest sympathies to Joan and his family.

Dodie Bump '76

Lee was a strong booster for our Class of ’55. He was a tireless worker for all alums, but particularly for our class. His dedication to Pomona College needs to be recognized by all of us. He will be missed. Our sympathies go to Joan and his family.

Lewis Silverberg

Those of us who have shared Rotary with Lee will miss him. He was a great District Governor. I have known Lee more then thirty years.

Henry Morgan

I have known Lee since the late 70's. He encouraged me to become active in the Alumni Council. He continued his support as I served in various capacities on the Council. When I was asked to join the Board of Trustees, he was there to congratulate me. Over the years, as I visited the campus, I looked forward to seeing him and Joan, both always welcoming and smiling. His contributions to the Alumni Office are vast! Hundreds, or shall I say thousands of alumni were touched by him. As an alum, I have benefited from the programs he instigated. He was one of the people who have left their stamp in a very positive way on Pomona College! I will miss him a lot!

Chris Eberhardt '71

We will miss Lee’s enthusiasm for all things Pomona and his dedication to years and years of alumni. I was lucky enough to see him frequently in the last few years as he lived in the same retirement community as my mom. My sympathies to Joan and family.

Anne Thompson Adams ‘72

I remember Lee's dedicated support for the Alumni Association. The year I was president we moved to Northern California and I needed to fly down each month for the board meetings. Lee was there to pick me up at the airport and very the early the next morning take me to the airport to catch the first flight to SF. More importantly, his support and counsel were invaluable to me.

His spirit, leadership and enthusiasm for the college certainly put him high in the ranks of the sons of Pomona.

Bill Dunkle

I got to know Lee in 1981-82 when I was Alumni Council President. Lee's passion for the college and its graduates made Pomona a continuing part of the lives of generations of Sagehens. That he was one of a kind was evident at the 1982 CASE Conference, where the deference to Lee's creative programs and leadership was evident from all the institutions present. He was, indeed, a giant in his field, as well as a good and caring person.

In recent years I had the good fortune to see Lee and Joan at Mt. San Antonio Gardens, where Lee continued to contribute to his community. It was a shock that we lost him so suddenly. He will be missed.

Nick Winslow '64
Trustee Emeritus

Lee Harlan and I were good friends from Muscatel middle school in Rosemead, California, and our mothers were friends. Lee was a year ahead of me, and preceded me through Rosemead High School and then to Pomona College. We remained good friends over the years. In the late 1970‚s, Lee pushed me to become active in Pomona College alumni activities, and that led directly to the various alumni, class and volunteer activities I have pursued since then. I am so sad that he is gone. I will miss him dearly. I send my sincere condolences and best wishes to Joan and his family.

Byron Hayes

Lee Harlan was an inspirational member of the Pomona community. He's one of the primary reasons I joined the alumni board ten years after graduation and I will always appreciate and remember his graciousness, leadership and love for all things Pomona. May he rest in peace.

Laurie Clark McCulley '82

I knew Lee from school days. What I remember most was the way he went about the business of being Alumni Director. It was a combination of patience, soft spoken communication and total commitment to everyone in his world. Lee gave himself to all who went before and after. Seaver House became everyone's comfort zone when he was with us. I have read remarks obout him by other alumni. He is mourned by hundreds of those who have passed through the gates on College avenue. What a legacy!

Ted Piatt

Words are inadequate for me to express the sense of loss I feel on the occasion of Lee’s passing. One of the most loyal sons of the college, Lee was perfectly placed in the position of Alumni Director. As the son of a Pomona alumna, Lee was a Tribute, but that role was minor compared to the one he played as constant advocate for the college and for her alumni everywhere.

Lee personified “the spirit true of the White and Blue...” He will be greatly missed.

Rosemary Choate '63

As nearly 60 year acquaintances of Lee's, as beneficiaries of his remarkable term as Director of Alumni Affairs, as happy participants in several of the Pomona College trips that Lee originated, and more recently, as comrades of Lee and Joan at Mount San Antonio Gardens, we join in the expressions of sorrow mixed with admiration of a life well lived. Lee was a remarkable and gracious contributor to everything with which he was connected.

Bob '51 and Jan '51 Tranquada

Lee Harlan had an easy way of luring people into roles of responsibility -- he always made it sound like a privilege and an honor he was bestowing (which it was). He seemed to intuitively discern who he could count on, personalities that brought people together, and especially those that most precisely fit the Pomona model. For the latter, he had a very clear idea of what a Pomona Person was -- he didn't go for the most accomplished or the richest or the most popular. He seemed to use the inscription on the gates as his rule of thumb and he applied it with calm precision.

I never had the sense that Lee had a job -- he had a vocation. His role was as much ambassador as advocate, as much missionary as organizer. He was unflappable, unstoppable and it was virtually impossible to say no to him. Instead, we say YES, Lee, we will miss you terribly.

CarlosG '73

Can't believe we have lost Lee. When we saw him recently at the Gardens, Lee motioned us over and introduced Syd and me to the guy who produces their stage shows etc. He wanted us to meet this active member of the Gardens community. He was looking good then. How terribly sad.

My earliest alumni connection was serving on committees of the Alumni Association, that was in the early 70's. Lee was the face of the Alumni Association....guiding and supporting us. He was such an integral part of the work of the Association for so many years. He will be missed by many, and especially those of us who served with him over the years.

Cathie Moon Brown '53

At 82 years of age I can still remember Lee which is remarkable.

Georgia Cort Weatherhead '51

I attribute my continued love for Pomona to Lee Harlan. He personified the caring and consideration that we think of belonging to Pomona. It was Lee all along. From the first time he came to visit in Sacramento in the early 'seventies to get us enthused about a Pomona chapter here. And every time I saw him in the last forty years. Little things, like meeting us at the airport,and big things, like always remembering everyone, meant a lot. He understood the things we loved about Pomona. Such a fine fellow, and with such a wonderful wife. I was always delighted to see you, and will hope to keep in touch, Joan. Nancy, I appreciate how you have followed in his footsteps.

I will keep you in my prayers, with thanks for his good and useful life.

Kathy Church Plummer '65

Lee Harlan was a wonderful friend and mentor to so many alumni relations and advancement professionals. His guidance made all of us better administrators, which made our colleges and universities more vibrant centers for our students and alumni. We are in Lee's debt.

John Faranda CMC '79

I had the privilege of being in the Claremont Rotary Club with Lee for over 15 years. He was a devoted member and good friend to all who knew him. He was always so proud of our Alma Mater and the year he was elected President of the club he started all 52 weekly meetings of the club with some factoid about Pomona College, much to the chagrin of some members of other schools that shall remain unnamed and to the delight of all of us Pomona colleagues. He will be greatly missed.

Ron Fukagawa ‘70

What a gentle man. He was the consummate professional who was always generous with his time, supportive of ideas and willing to have you (me) steal program ideas. As he used to tell me when I asked if he'd mind if I "stole" one of his programs, "Jean, we have different audiences. Go for it!" I would like to send a note of condolence to his family. He's one of those people who truly influenced my life.

Jean Keefe Parry

What a loss to the Pomona community. I am so very sorry to learn of Lee's death. I wanted all of you in the Alumni Office what a valuable alumni friend Lee was - from Club activities way in my past to reunion committees, and even his guiding on Alumni Weekend Tours! He will be missed as you all know very well.

Nancy Francis, '54

Though I graduated in 1961 before Lee came, I recall decades of wonderful support he gave alumni, students, faculty and the community. It was wonderful to have worked with him in relation to Pomona College programming in Hawaii. We'll all miss him.

John H. Southworth '61

Having been Lee Harlan's classmate gave me a special rapport with him, which was certainly a privilege for me. After graduation, my Pomona contacts occurred at 5-year intervals as I participated in class reunion planning (except for the four years of my daughter Karen's student years.) As Alumni Relations Director Lee was always a sympathetic supporter, tolerant of our reunion committee's sometimes wacky notions, but a practical advocate of the college's framework of feasibility. Having consistent contact with Pomona students seems to have given him a special perspective on alumni. Lee's ability to present balanced views about controversial subjects (such as versions of the Alma Mater) helped diffuse alumni angst. His confidence in articulating Pomona values and his sense of humor were huge assets. Lee was that rarity, a "certified adult." I miss him already.

Kit Dreyfuss '55

I consider it one of the many added riches of Pomona to have known Lee during the years I served on the Alumni Council and then the Executive Committee. Lee knew how to support and encourage our ideas and at the same time gently steer us away from misguided suggestions that he foresaw might have unintended consequences. His kind and gentle encouragement was ample reward for our efforts. I admired how open he was to new ideas. When the education committee that I chaired wanted to resurrect Alumni College, Lee at first resisted, based on past experience, then fully embraced a new way of holding it away from campus at a conference center, which led to a run of highly successful, wonderful gatherings of alumni and faculty at Asilomar in Pacific Grove. Lee was unfailingly warm and kind. Returning to Pomona will not be the same without his smiling face to welcome me home.

Chris Wiederanders Berardo '64

Lee was the epitome of graciousness and a wonderful representative of Pomona College. He always made me feel welcome and appreciated whatever I could contribute in terms of time and energy to the school, from my student days through when I sat on the Alumni Board.

During my Freshman year at the college, Lee coordinated a program whereby students could sign up to have dinner with an alum in their home. This connected the two groups and each could share experiences and memories of the college. I signed up for this program and ended up having dinner with Lee and Joan. I really enjoyed the evening and was surprised to learn that Lee, himself, was an alum and not just the Alumni Relations Director of the school.

Lee devoted himself to Pomona, its alums and activities – even after he retired from his post. I admired this then and realize now that it was such a big part of who he was.

He will be sorely missed.

Linda Treibitz

I worked at the Seaver House reception desk during all 4 of my years at Pomona. My first day on the job, Lee came downstairs and, with the utmost kindness and patience, told me that I'd mistakenly written wrong numbers for all three of the phone messages I took down for him. What a saint! Not once in those 4 years was Lee anything but kind and friendly to me. He was a true gentleman.

I loved participating in the reunion weekends when I was a student and watching Lee in his glory. I loved the photographs Lee took for the Pomona College calendar. He had a quiet enthusiasm and dedication that inspired me.

Lee acquainted me with the Rotary Club International Graduate Scholarship, and doubtlessly did what he could to help me secure a scholarship. My year as a Rotary Scholar in Jerusalem was a highlight of my life. I will always be grateful to Lee.

My sincere condolences,
Elizabeth Zapler '91

It was a pleasure to work with Lee as a student at Pomona. He and Nancy set a great example of being professional, courteous and maintaining a good sense of humor when coordinating all kinds of logistics during new student orientation and alumni weekend. He will be missed.

Mark Inbody '91

Lee Harlan was the embodiment of the spirit of Pomona - always helpful, congenial, supportive, respectful, gracious and humble. I remember him though I was class of '76, 36 years ago...

Harriet C. (Chris) Chu '76

If you stood near Lee at a gathering, you heard the many praises and thanks given him by those whose lives he had affected. Classmate, friend, exceptional persona.............farewell.

This limerick was dedicated to the reunion crew at the 55th reunion---

Thanks to Kit and Bruce and Lee
Whose efforts we're most glad to see.
Their reunions are fun
'Til dinner is done
And all have indulged with great glee.
~JB 2010

Jim Bathgate '55

Lee was a proper "old school" gentleman -- always kind, polite, and generous. He was also perfect for his job -- remembering not only everyone's name but many personal details as well, even if he didn't see you very often. I still remember him coming to pick up the Chapter Chairs personally at Ontario airport, dressed in his signature coat and tie despite the warm southern California weather, taking care of every detail.

We were so lucky to have had someone with such a big heart who was so devoted to serving Pomona. We will miss his gentle humility, his warmth, and his sincere interest in every member of the Pomona family. We have lost a prince of a guy!

My sincere condolences to Joan and the rest of Lee's family, as well as his extended family at Seaver House.

Guy M. Lohman '71

I was fortunate enough to have been an Alumni Association volunteer during Lee's tenure. I say fortunate because I learned a lot from Lee, I enjoyed myself while working with him, and I basked in his enthusiasm for our alma mater. I have yet to encounter anyone who could rival his skill and patience working with volunteers or his zeal for the College.

Verne Naito
Class of '77 co-chair
Naito Corporation