A Look Back at World War II

Soldiers in a pre-meteorology class at Pomona in 1943

Soldiers in a pre-meteorology class at Pomona in 1943

In honor of Veterans Day, we decided to shine a light on how World War II touched students at Pomona College, from those who went to war to those who stayed on the home front.

The following timeline of events was pulled from our Pomona College Timeline, a record of the history of Pomona College.

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A Pomona Homecoming

High school teachers Jason Torres-Rangel ’03 and Rosa Jimenez ’04 came home to campus this week, bringing dozens of their students with them. Torres-Rangel, lead English teacher, and Jimenez, lead social studies teacher, are part of the group of educators who helped open a small public school in L.A.’s Koreatown in 201o. The UCLA Community School at the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools Complex is home to about 1,000 K-12 students, coming primarily from Latino and Korean immigrant homes. And, as Torres-Rangel notes, it was a thrill for the two Sagehens to introduce the high-school students to Pomona College:

Coming back to campus reminded Rosa and I what a nurturing, supportive, loving place the college is. I got to hug Frank Bedoya [of Campus Life] and wish him a happy birthday, and my fellow graduate Conor O’Rourke ’03 gave our students the Pomona admissions talk in Rose Hills Theatre where I heard [former Admissions Dean] Bruce Poch give the same speech to Conor and I some 15 years ago … that was kind of surreal!

For our students, who come from immigrant families and will be the first generation to graduate from high school and college, it was their first time to step on a liberal arts school’s campus, and they all remarked at how they could tell that Pomona was a really special place.

Seeing the new arts building made me want to come back for a second round!

Photo by Mark Wood

Top 5: Campus Creatures

Animal sightings on campus are certainly not rare, (although being one of few to witness a hawk scooping up an unsuspecting squirrel may be). Grounds Manager Ronald Nemo shared this list of Pomona’s most common animal visitors, noting that recent conservation efforts have brought much wildlife back to the 40-acre Wash. Close runner-ups include rabbits, which are hunted by coyotes living in the Wash, and opossums.

 However, the rustic east side of campus isn’t the only place frequented by wildlife. According to Nemo, Red-tailed hawks nest in the pine trees between Harwood and Wig residence halls, barn owls can be found living near Bridges Auditorium, and raccoon families hunker down in the storm drains. And of course, there’s nowhere on campus where friendly-tree squirrels—gray or red—can’t be found.

coyoteTop 5:

1) Western Gray and American Red Tree Squirrels

2) Raccoons

3) Red-tailed Hawks

4) Barn Owls

5) Coyotes

Advice from the 1914-15 student handbook

Tips for first-year students from the 1914-15 student handbook:

– Ask questions. It is evidence you are alive and awake.

– Eat at the Commons if possible. It furthers the democratic spirit of the college.

– Attend at least part of your classes. Knowledge obtained from them will be good for you as well as help you.

– Watch the bulletin boards.

– A man is known by the company he keeps out of.

– Don’t be noisy in the library. Others around you may wish to sleep.

– Be proficient in your studies.

– Don’t be a bookworm. Worms are good for nothing but bait. Enter into outside activities.

– Make use of the mountains. While probably not put there just for you, they might as well be used as to stand idle.


Sagehen celebration: Sponsor groups gather yearly for ever-growing Thanksgiving feast

Sponsor group dinners—and reunion dinners—are commonplace at the College; it’s a rare day when at least one such gathering, formal or informal, isn’t seen taking place at either the Frary or Frank dining halls. One feast, however, yearly outperforms the rest: A pair of sponsor groups, organized by Robert Chew ’14 and Deidre Lee ’14, gather annually to make and serve their own Thanksgiving dinner for the group of approximately 30—this year, 40—friends. The tradition began four years ago, in the fall of Chew and Lee’s first year at Pomona, when they were in neighboring sponsor groups in Lyon Court. “We were just sitting around right before Thanksgiving,” recalls Lee, “And we were like, ‘We all love this holiday, but it sucks that most of us are going home. We can’t celebrate it together but it’s one of our favorite holidays.’” Then the simple solution took hold: Why not just make their own pre-Thanksgiving dinner? Easier said than done. “The first year involved a lot of us saying, ‘OK! We’re going to make Thanksgiving dinner! …How do we do that?’ There was a lot of mother-calling,” says Chew, laughing.

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Football star became World War II hero

It was World War II, a time when many Japanese Americans were denied their civil rights out of unfounded suspicions about their loyalty. Kazuma “Benny” Hisanaga ’41 faced another cha llenge: fighting against Hitler’s army on the European front. Hisanaga was a member of the 100th Infantry Battalion, a segregated army unit made up of Japanese-American troops. Confronted with the double burden of prejudice against their ancestry along with the shocks and struggles of wartime, Hisanaga and his fellow troops proved they were more than capable of rising to the occasion. The 100th Battalion and its successor, the 442nd Infantry Regiment, would go on to become one of the most decorated units of the war. And Hisanaga, who had been a star athlete at Pomona, managed to carve out a remarkable legacy of leadership, winning some of the country’s highest military honors for his bravery in combat.

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The Atomic Art of Millikan Hall

Aging Millikan Hall, built at the dawn of the Space Age, is being torn down and rebuilt to state-of-the-art standards over the next two years. But the iconic atomic artwork on the west facade of the building will be preserved and prominently displayed on the new building. atomsideviewCommissioned for Pomona College’s new math, physics and astronomy lab back in 1958, the bronze atom sculpture facing College Avenue was designed by noted sculptor Albert Stewart, whose work adorns civic buildings nationwide, including the U.S. Mint in San Francisco. Before his death in 1965, Stewart created counterparts for the atom for the facades of Seaver North and South, with an image of cell division for biology and an array of particles for chemistry.

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Class of 2017 celebrates at the College Gates

The Class of 2017 was welcomed to campus Sunday with the traditional celebratory entry through the College Gates. Of course, Cecil Sagehen was on hand to keeps things chirpy as the new students moved along College Avenue. (Photos by Carrie Rosema.)


When Pomona had a lab at Laguna Beach

Current Pomona College students may feel a tinge of envy to learn that the College once had a lab set on the shore of one of Southern California’s most beloved beaches. This summer marks a century since the 1913 founding of Pomona’s Marine Laboratory in Laguna Beach, Calif., with the seaside facility built in part as a gift to the college through donations made by citizens of Orange County. Each summer for three decades, groups of faculty and students made the trek to Laguna, where they camped out in tents and set up shop at the lab for a six-week summer school session focused on marine biology. The sessions included general courses in such subjects as botany and oceanography, but students also got a chance to do hands-on field work where they could tackle their own projects. Highlights of the summer included the infamous early-morning collecting runs.

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College Hedge Gets a Haircut

The branching oaks of The Wash and grassy wonder of Marston Quad may get more attention, but the pittosporum hedge on College Avenue is a big part of campus. Photo by Carrie Rosema.

The branching oaks of The Wash and grassy wonder of Marston Quad may get more attention, but the pittosporum hedge on College Avenue is a big part of campus. Photo by Carrie Rosema.

Before students return to school each school year, Grounds Manager Ronald Nemo and his crew turn their trimmers on Pomona’s green behemoth, the massive pittosporum hedge that runs for blocks – in total, perhaps 3,000 feet – along both sides of College Avenue. The wall of green was planted decades ago for a practical purpose: to help discourage pedestrians from darting across the avenue outside the crosswalks, according to Nemo. As much as it is an omnipresent barrier, 15 feet wide at some points, the College Avenue hedge is also easily overlooked. That’s by design. Donning vests, gloves and protective goggles, Nemo’s 14-person crew goes at it with handheld power trimmers until the hedge’s new ‘doo is a close-cropped crew-cut reaching only about three feet high, allowing clear views of the street and campus, while still serving as a big green buffer. The pittosporum also gets a clean-up before Alumni Weekend and Commencement.