Issue Theme

Oxtoby Memories

Very early in David’s tenure, we were at a meeting, and David had to leave the meeting early, so he got up and proceeded to walk into a closet. Everyone in the room fell silent, and a few moments later, David emerged from the closet and said, “There are so many doors around here. I love it.” At which point he plunged at a dead run, which is the way he always moves, through the correct door and off into the rest of the College. And I remember everybody chuckled, but I was just sort of beaming ear to ear for having been involved in hiring him, because it kind of framed exactly why we hired him. That is, his amazing intellectual curiosity and energy. In my mind, he was a guy who thrived on opening new doors, and who didn’t shy away from difficult situations. And I think we’ve seen a great deal of that in such issues as sustainability and the art museum and diversity and creating an inviting and comfortable environment for everybody, his athletic leadership, summer internships, building the College beyond Claremont. Here’s somebody who’s always looking for new doors to open.

Stewart Smith ’68
Former Chair of the Board of Trustees

 

My second meeting with David was an argument, but a good argument. This was during the strategic planning process. I had been leading the task force about interdisciplinary studies, and we were meeting to discuss our report. First he wanted to take me to lunch, but I was suspicious because people take you to lunch to try to disarm you before they pounce. So I said, ‘No, no, no, no, let’s just have a meeting in your office.’ And sure enough, David opened by saying he had read the report, that it was well documented and well written, but that he strongly disagreed. And we had a wonderful kind of back and forth, because he had clearly read and thought about everything we had said. I think we continued to disagree, but I was impressed because it was clear he was engaging seriously with what we were saying on an intellectual level.

Cecilia Conrad
Former Dean of the Faculty

 

I was on the tennis team, and President Oxtoby would often come to weekend matches to cheer us on in his full Spandex bike gear. As I student, I appreciated the fact that he was out doing his weekend routine of getting some exercise, but he took some time out to come to the tennis courts and watch our match.

Elspeth Hilton Kim ’08

 

David Oxtoby was my academic advisor, so I got to work with him very closely. I think that he did not want me to shortchange myself in terms of what I could get out of a world-class education at Pomona. He really believed in my potential, and he reminded me of that constantly. What was so astonishing to me was the fact that every time we met, even though we only met twice a semester, he knew exactly what we had talked about in our previous conversation and he asked me about it.

Shirley Ceja-Tinoco ’10

 

I recall, in his inaugural address, one of the major themes David stressed was community partnerships. He felt they were very important. And I picked up on that early because that was a passion of mine, and I said to myself, ‘Bingo, I think I have a partner here.’ So we talked a lot about it over the years, and out of that came a plan to build up the Center for Community Partnerships and set it up in perpetuity. And that’s what happened. So, it’s a joint project we both, I think, are very proud of.

Ranney Draper ’60
Trustee Emeritus

 

David has had to deal with a lot of hard, hard issues. The issues change, but they don’t seem to get any easier. During the presidential search, someone asked me, ‘What are you looking for in a new president?’ And I said, ‘Well, it seems to me you need someone who has some ability to deal with these disparate issues and to work with these diverse students in a way that makes them all feel like they’re being supported or validated.’ And that’s David. He approaches these things with real concern and understanding for the student experience.

Jeanne Buckley ’65
Chair Emerita of the Board of Trustees

Read more Oxtoby memories, part 2