Each year, Pomona College selects alumni to receive the Blaisdell Distinguished Alumni Award, which recognizes alumni for high achievement in professions or community service. These are alumni who have carried the spirit of the College into the rest of the world and lived up to the famous quotation from James A. Blaisdell which is inscribed into the gates of the College: "They only are loyal to the college who departing bear their added riches in trust for mankind."
Gretchen Berland ’86
Gretchen Berland is an associate professor of internal medicine at Yale School of Medicine. Graduating Pomona in 1986 as a biology major, she worked on science documentaries for Nova on PBS and then The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.
In 1992, she attended medical school at Oregon Health Sciences University, completing further training at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and a fellowship at UCLA.
Her career in media has influenced her professional work as a physician, where she has used the documentary format to explore the lives of patients. In 2004, she wrote, produced and directed Rolling, a documentary about the lives of people who use wheelchairs.
She is the recipient of several prestigious awards, including two Emmy Awards and the MacArthur Fellowship. A recipient of Pomona's Young Inspirational Alumni Award, she currently resides in Hamden, Connecticut.
Ed Krupp ’66
Ed Krupp is an astronomer and the director of Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. With Professor Robert J. Chambers as his advisor, he attended Pomona College as an undergraduate majoring in physics/astronomy and earned his bachelor’s degree in 1966. He received his master’s degree in 1968 and his Ph.D. in astronomy in 1972 at UCLA.
Since 1973, Krupp has been recognized internationally for his work on ancient, prehistoric and traditional astronomy. He is the author and editor of five books on this subject and has personally visited, studied and photographed more than 2,000 ancient, historic and prehistoric sites throughout the world. He has also written hundreds of articles for the general reader on astronomy and culture, dozens of research papers and four children's books on astronomy. He has received several prominent awards from the American Institute of Physics, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific and other astronomical and civic organizations. He treasures the unexpected Honorary Doctorate Pomona College awarded him in 2011.
Krupp began his Griffith Observatory career as a part-time planetarium lecturer in 1970. On completion of graduate school, he was hired as Griffith Observatory's curator. He has been its director since 1974 and has led the Observatory’s $93-million restoration, renovation and expansion, a project he conceived and shepherded through design, fundraising, construction, reactivation and return to space after a five-year close.
At Pomona College, Krupp was privileged to live at Brackett Observatory for two years and act as its caretaker, telescope demonstrator and weatherman. That intimate experience transformed his perspective on life, the universe and everything, and transformed him into an inadvertent collector of observatories.
Julian Nava ’51
Julian Nava’s career has combined military service, 12 years of elected public office within Los Angeles and twelve adjacent cities, diverse civic and business involvement, as well as the promotion of foreign trade. As U.S. Ambassador to Mexico under Presidents Carter and Reagan, he represented our country at the highest level abroad.
From 1957 and through his retirement in 1999, Nava was a professor of history at California State University, Northridge. He was also a published author and editorial writer for newspapers at home and abroad, as well as a book reviewer and lecturer.
Nava has lived and taught in Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Spain and Colombia and consults for school districts and universities in the United States and abroad in the area of cross-cultural program development. As a Latin American specialist, he is board member emeritus of the U.S. Mexico Chamber of Commerce, as well as emeritus member of the Board of Trustees of Pomona College.
As an extension of his academic life, Nava produced a series of one-hour documentary films that promote international understanding, including the history of the Basque people in Song of the Basques (1995). He co-directed Voices of Cuba (1996) and produced a documentary in two languages on cross-border migration to and from the United States called Round Trip Zacatecanos (2001). He has, under development, other television specials on Tibet for a series titled Peoples of the Word Today.
Nava was born in Los Angeles in 1927 to a Mexican immigrant family of eight children. After military service in the U.S. Naval Air Corps he went on to college, receiving a bachelor’s degree at Pomona College in 1951 and a doctorate in history from Harvard University in 1955.
George C. Wolfe ’76
George C. Wolfe is an award-winning playwright, director and producer of theatre and film. His latest Broadway adaptation, "Shuffle Along," was recently hailed in a New York Times Magazine cover story as “an ambitious revival” that “opens a door on the deep and twisted roots of black performance in America.”
Wolfe’s directing credits include "Lackawanna Blues," "Nora Ephron’s Lucky Guy," "The Normal Heart," "Jelly's Last Jam," "Angels In America: Millennium Approaches," "Angels in America: Perestroika," "Bring In 'Da Noise, Bring In 'Da Funk," "Topdog/Underdog," "Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992," "Elaine Stritch at Liberty," "The Tempest," "The Wild Party," "Caroline, or Change" and "A Free Man of Color."
His writing, producing and creative credits include the satirical comedy "The Colored Museum"; "Spunk"; "Harlem Song"; and a celebration of the American musical performed at the White House.
He is the recipient of many distinguished awards and distinctions, including multiple Drama Desk, Tony and Obie Awards; the NAACP Lifetime Achievement Award; and the New Dramatist Outstanding Career Achievement Award.
From 1993-2005, Wolfe was the producer of The Public Theatre/New York Shakespeare Festival. He has served for the past seven years on The President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities, and is chief creative officer of the Center for Civil and Human Rights.
Wolfe graduated from Pomona with a bachelor’s degree in theater in 1976. He earned an M.F.A in dramatic writing and musical theater at New York University in 1983.