Susanne Garvey ’74 came to Pomona at the inspiration of her grandmother, Madeline Willard Garvey, Class of 1911, who spoke with awe of the atmosphere of cooperation and commitment to learning.
Susanne wanted those things, too. At Pomona, she embraced the life of the mind, engaging in those deep late-night conversations, and finding “just the right mix of serious study and social life.” She was an English major—Phi Beta Kappa and Mortar Board—who had many friends in the sciences. She served as arts and culture editor for The Student Life, and also took modern dance classes from Professor Jeannette Hypes, performing several times in her dance troupe. She soaked up everything she could from the small liberal arts college atmosphere.
Then came senior year. Her first semester, spent studying abroad in England, was amazing. Coming back to Pomona for the final semester, though, was a letdown, with the campus now seeming too cloistered at a time before Pomona of- fered the breadth of summer research, community service and internship
So, after a year back home in Menlo Park, Calif., working at an antiquarian bookstore, she was off to earn her master’s at the University of Virginia. Garvey was part of the small percentage of master’s students accepted to stay on and pursue a Ph.D.; but when it came to dissertation time, she realized she was going to have to focus on something very narrow. She decided against that path.
Garvey did remain in the realm of education, though. Her next stop was the U.K., where she spent a year organ- izing a college-level semester abroad program—the very program she had participated in as a Pomona student. Then, Garvey moved to Washington, D.C., where she worked for a semester-in-Washington program before becoming director of development for MATHCOUNTS and National Engineers Week, STEM programs serving elementary and secondary school students across the U.S.
For the last two decades, Garvey has been director of external affairs for the D.C.-based Carnegie Institution for Science. Part of her work takes her to the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, which have historic ties to the Mount Wilson Observatory—and that connection brought her back into contact with Pomona nearly a decade ago.
Carnegie astronomers from Pasadena were invited to give guest seminars at Pomona for advanced astrophysics classes. That led to Pomona and Harvey Mudd students doing internships working with Carnegie’s astronomers. And that, in turn, led Garvey to meet three Pomona student interns.
“They were everything that I remembered that was good about Pomona,” Garvey says. “They were smart … relaxed and interesting. I thought ‘what an amazing place Pomona still must be to produce students like these.’”
When Garvey was invited to serve on the alumni council a few years later, she readily accepted. She didn’t expect to become president. “I don’t have an agenda,” she says, though upon further thought, she adds, “I do have a theme— English majors have themes— ‘Reflecting on Change.’”
Garvey notes that before she joined the alumni council, she hadn’t been back to Pomona in decades, and she was impressed with all the changes in terms of opportunities for internships, research and travel, as well as the physical improve- ments to the campus. “I just felt that everything was better,” says Garvey, who, in a sense, is getting an extended re-do of that last semester of senior year.