The magazine you hold was born 50 years ago this fall as Pomona Today, when the sharp new publication replaced an alumni newsletter. And while the name has long since changed to Pomona College Magazine, it seems about half of our readers still know it by the old moniker. (Call us whatever you want—just keep reading.)
The pages of the first issue are laden with an early-’60s sense of purpose: men in suits and ties assembled around a cyclotron, a professor exploring the “Frontiers of Science,” a photo showing light—and, no doubt, knowledge—aglow through the glass doors of the newly-built Seaver Laboratory. A Space Age feeling pervades: All that’s missing is a make-your- own Gemini capsule cutout.
Heavy play is given to then-New York Times editorial page editor John Oakes’ commencement address, “Smashing the Cliché,” in which he tells students, “man will soon be searching, not by proxy but in person, the pathways of the stars … in your lifetime you will witness man’s arrival on new planets, his penetration of the outer void, his unfolding of the mysteries of the universe.”
In “The Case for the Liberal Arts College,” Professor W.T. Jones notes that “The fundamental fact of modern life is the acceleration of change—economic change, social change, political change, cultural change. … Indeed, in the physical sciences, the rate of change is so great that theories which are “true” when a freshman enters college are likely to be exploded by the time he graduates.”
My favorite bit of writing from that issue, though, is a short caption accompanying a photo of two pensive-looking classmates that simply reads: “Students in a complicated world.”
Fifty years later, the world grows more complicated and the change keeps coming. But PCM is still here, in print and online. Our circulation has yet to reach new planets; there is no home delivery to the “outer void.” Strangely, the birth of each new issue still feels as heady and fraught as an early-’60s rocket launch. And when it’s over, we editors come crashing back down to Earth, and get to work on the next one.