A $1 million gift from Rick and Susan Sontag will provide Pomona College students with life-changing opportunities to pursue undergraduate research in physics. The Sontag Endowment for Physics Fund will support extended, focused student research projects during the summer, a hallmark of the Pomona College experience.
"Rick and Susan Sontag's leadership in supporting higher education is remarkable and inspiring," says David Oxtoby, president of Pomona College. "This gift supports a core strength of the Pomona College experience, the opportunity for a mentored research experience to further students' capacity as critical thinkers and practicing scientists."
The Sontag family are long-time supporters of Pomona College. Susan Sontag is a 1964 graduate of Pomona College, and the couple's daughter Cindy Sontag Hudgins is a member of the Class of 1995. Rick Sontag's uncle, the late professor Frederick E. Sontag, taught in Pomona's Philosophy Department for more than 50 years. Rick and Susan Sontag previously donated $7.5 million as the lead gift for Pomona's Sontag Residence Hall, which was built to the highest level of green-building standards and awarded LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) platinum by the U.S. Green Building Council.
"Rick earned two degrees in physics and feels that this background helped him immensely with his business career. So, the sponsorship of a physics education program is a great fit for us," said Susan Sontag.
The Pomona College Department of Physics and Astronomy provides students the opportunity to explore the interactions of matter and energy at the deepest level, in contexts ranging from the subatomic to the cosmic. Pomona's extraordinary research facilities include a research-grade 1-meter telescope on Table Mountain (in the Los Angeles National Forest), scanning tunneling microscope, and a new Hitachi SU-70 Thermal Field Emission Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) system that combines the capability for SEM, STEM, EDS, cathodoluminescence, and back-scattered electron imaging.
The faculty conducts research in a variety of areas, including nanotechnology, Bose-Einstein condensates, biophysics and observational astrophysics using both ground-based and space telescopes.
Hands-on student research opportunities are a central part of a Pomona College education. In physics, students have worked in Pomona faculty laboratories as well as at a wide range of institutions beyond Claremont. In summer 2013, 15 students conducted research with Pomona faculty. In addition, six students were at the Carnegie Observatories, two students at the Brookhaven National Laboratories, two students at Caltech, and many others enjoyed opportunities at both industrial and academic laboratories.
Rick Sontag currently manages his own investment business through the Spring Bay Companies in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. In 2000, he and Susan established the Sontag Foundation which contributes to a variety of medical and social causes. Rick Sontag also has a long association with Pomona's sister college, Harvey Mudd College, both as a graduate and as a member of the HMC Board of Trustees. The Sontags also donated $5 million for the Sontag Residence Hall located on the Harvey Mudd campus.
Pomona College, founded in 1887, is one of the nation's premier liberal arts colleges. Located in Claremont, CA, the College is known for the close relationships between students and faculty and a range of opportunities for hands-on student research. Pomona College has need-blind admissions and meets the full financial need of accepted students with scholarships.