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Alexander to Retire

President David Alexander announced his plans to retire on Sept. 1, 1991 after 22 years as president of Pomona College.


Steele Leave Program Created

A gift of $2 million from the Harry and Grace Steele Foundation established one of the nation’s first full-year leave programs open to all qualified junior faculty members. The program enables new members of the faculty to devote a full year to concentrated research after only three years at the institution. The program was designed to encourage young scholars to continue to develop their research interests while dealing with the pressures of teaching.

Eleventh Rhodes Scholar

Martina Vandenberg ’90 became Pomona’s 11th Rhodes Scholar and the first Pomona woman to win the honor.


Seaver Memorial Theatre

By the mid-1980s, it was clear that a dedicated theatre building on the Pomona campus was badly needed. Holmes Hall, which had housed performances for many years, had become increasingly inadequate to the task (It was closed to use in 1987 and demolished in 1990, the same year Seaver Theatre opened.) At the time Seaver Theatre was constructed, department offices were in a converted private home on Seventh Street and performances were held in Garrison Theatre (then the property of Claremont University Center, later purchased by Scripps College). The new theatre project was announced in 1987 but not begun until 1989 when the College received a $9.6 million donation from Richard C. Seaver ‘43 in honor of his father, Byron Dick Seaver ‘08, for whom the building was ultimately named. An attorney in Los Angeles, Byron Dick Seaver was the third child of Carlton and Estella Seaver, whose home, relocated to Claremont from its original site in Pomona, now houses the College’s alumni office.

Constructed on a large lot east of Oldenborg Center and Frank Hall, the new 64,348-square-foot theatre blended academic and public functions in classrooms intended for performance and a theatre designed for teaching. The principal auditorium, which seats 340, was planned to enable audience-actor integration with runways, overhead galleries, and adaptable caliper stages for flexibility.  The 52,000-square-foot building houses a hundred-seat “black box” theatre, individual studios, scene and costume shops, a library, and faculty offices arranged around a courtyard, enhancing their accessibility. The building’s signature tower functions both as marquee—banners are flown when performances are scheduled—and a public elevator. In 1989, the building’s design by the architectural firm BOOR/A, Portland, Oregon, which had designed other performing arts centers, won a citation from the American Institute of Architects for an “unbuilt project”; in 1995, the finished building received an award of merit from the U.S. Institute for Theatre Technology, which noted its handsome courtyard and flexible, non-intimidating teaching spaces inside and out.

The variety of theatrical forms that Seaver Theatre was carefully designed to accommodate included, importantly, Kabuki, a traditional form of Japanese popular theatre. That Pomona College offers Kabuki instruction as well as a regular schedule of traditional western theatre performances is due to Professor Leonard Pronko, who joined the faculty in 1957 and was chair of his department at the time Seaver Theatre was built. Pronko, the first non-Japanese ever to complete the Kabuki Training Program at the National Theatre of Japan, was awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure by the Japanese Government in 1986. Fittingly, the gala opening of the Seaver Theatre in March 1991 was celebrated with Kabuki performances, including the traditional The Demon’s Claw, and an original Kabuki “Western” titled Revenge at Spider Mountain by Leonard Pronko, first produced in 1977 to mark the 25th anniversary of Kabuki at Pomona College.

Smiley Hall Emergency Renovation

Smiley Hall was slated for renovation in the summer of 1990, but early inspections found that the steel reinforcement in the walls was not uniform and therefore not earthquake safe. President Alexander closed the building immediately. Upon return for the spring 1990 semester, Smiley residents were moved: 52 of the 67 students lived in Griswold's Claremont Center, were shuttled back and forth to campus every half hour, and continued to eat at the dining halls. The others bunked with friends in singles or lived in vacant dorm rooms. The renovation on the then-82-year-old dorm cost $1.25 to $1.5 million, and the emergency housing cost $60,000. Students moved back to campus after about six weeks when Lyon Court opened in March 1990.

Lyon Court

Lyon Court, which opened in 1990, was named in honor of Pomona’s sixth president who had believed fervently in the importance of congenial housing. The new residence, encompassing a total of 24,238 square feet, replaced Olney Dining Hall, which had been made redundant by the construction of Frank Hall, and completed the south side of Harwood Court. Renovated in 1998 and again in 2004, Lyon Court consists of one-room doubles and houses primarily first-year students.

Holmes Hall Demolished

After three years of legal delays, Holmes Hall was demolished to make room for the new Alexander Hall. Two structural analyses had determined that the building, which was going on a century old, was structurally unsafe, and so the decision was made to demolish it in 1987. However, opposition by the city of Claremont forced the matter into the courts, and the building wasn’t demolished until 1990, after the College received a favorable ruling from the California Supreme Court.

The Upland Earthquake

On Feb. 28, an earthquake measuring 5.4 rattled Pomona College, causing stacks in the libraries to fall like dominoes and knocking several thousand books from their shelves. No injuries were reported on campus, but there were an unsettling 800 aftershocks in 36 hours. The “Upland Earthquake,” which triggered landslides on Mt. Baldy, was felt as far away as Las Vegas, Nev., and Ensenada, Mexico. President Peter Stanley observed that the quake “underscored the College’s efforts to bring all older buildings into closer conformity with seismic standards.”


Football Records

Football star Nate Kirtman set school records for the longest run (84 yards) and longest kickoff return (100 yards) in school history. He was later drafted by the Dallas Cowboys. In the spring, he won a national championship in the long jump (24’ 7 ¼”) for the men’s track and field team.

Best Volleyball Finish

Volleyball finished with a best-ever 24-4 record, a No. 7 national ranking and an appearance in the NCAA Regional finals (final eight). Senior Joanne Nielsen earned All-America honors.

Student Life

ESL Tutoring Program for Staff Established

A 1991 Pomona College Today article chronicles the beginnings of a program developed by Kim Silver '91 and Alison Embler '91 to pair Pomona student volunteers with staff members who sought English-as-a-Second-Language tutoring. The program was immediately successful. Between its inception in fall 1990 and the article in summer 1991, the program blossomed into a 5C program with 60 tutors and 75 employee/students. Today, the program on the Pomona campus is run by the Draper Center for Community Partnerships.


Nelson Mandela was released from Victor Verster Prison, near Cape Town, South Africa, after 27 years.

East and West Germany first merge economies and then reunite politically to form a single Germany.

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched aboard Space Shuttle Discovery.