‘The Capacity to Ask Questions’

Angela Davis

Angela Davis at The Claremont Colleges during her October visit

Angela Davis, considered a radical in the 1970s and now Distinguished Professor Emerita at UC Santa Cruz, returned to the Pomona campus as the Ena H. Thompson Distinguished Lecturer for two events in October. In 1975, Davis was appointed to teach in The Claremont Colleges’ Black Studies Center only to be forced out after two semesters by resistance from administrators, trustees and donors who objected to her activism and notoriety as a former prisoner on charges for which she was later acquitted.

In a Q and A with The Student Life, Davis addressed the role of education in activism.

“The challenge, I think, is to guarantee that students acquire the capacity to raise questions. And as far as I’m concerned, that is the very heart of education, not only teaching students how to conduct research and acquire information, but what we do with it. So it seems to me that the most crucial aspect of education is teaching and encouraging students how to constantly engage in that process of questioning. And that involves also questioning those things we take for granted.”

Angela Davis

Angela Davis at The Claremont Colleges in 1975-76. Kevin Spicer interviews Angela Davis during class break

OA, Local Version

Joshua Tree National Park

Eli Li ’25 tries rock climbing at Joshua Tree National Park.

The traditional multi-day Orientation Adventures to such classic California destinations as Yosemite National Park and various coastal spots for camping, surfing or kayaking have been on a pandemic hiatus. But students arriving on campus for the first time had opportunities to go on more local orientation experiences last fall, including a rock-climbing day trip to Joshua Tree National Park, a dog-walking outing with four-legged friends from the Priceless Pets rescue group in Chino Hills and a trip to Long Beach.

Priceless Pets rescue group

Ella Novy-Marx ’25, left, and Brody Eggert ’25 playing with a dog.

Protesting is part of the college experience—even perhaps an essential element of a well-rounded education.

But the small protest that materialized outside of Frary Dining Hall one November morning was unexpected to say the least. Several students, armed with camp stoves and spatulas, were whipping up made-to-order omelets for yawning students before class.

Their cause? Weekday morning omelet service had been suspended because of pandemic-related staffing issues. The students published a “Das Omelettistich Manifesto” with an apropos slogan: “You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.”

Campus administrators said the omelet stations would resume as staffing allowed—and they did, with daily made-to-order omelets returning to Frary and Frank as indoor dining resumed for the spring semester.

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Grad

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Grad

Each year, Art Professor Lisa Anne Auerbach gives graduating art majors something to take with them as they leave Pomona.

For more than a decade, she has photographed the department’s seniors in individual portraits, capturing them in a setting they choose themselves on campus or nearby. The resulting portraits are colorful and sometimes playful, often capturing the students’ artistic sensibilities.

“It’s an interesting time to make a portrait when most of our students are on the precipice of this new time in their lives,” says Auerbach, who started the project in 2010 during her first year at Pomona. “The images reflect who they are at the moment and maybe a bit of who they aspire to be, going forward.”

Last fall, her work resulted in an exhibit in the Chan Gallery on campus: Senior Portraits—The First Decade. Grouped by class year, the individual portraits created a moving history of the department and subtle changes in student styles.

Auerbach persisted with the project through the pandemic graduations of 2020 and 2021, driving as far as Ojai to photograph a student, taking another photo via Zoom and creating one with a photograph of a photograph. With any luck, Senior Portraits—The Second Decade, is ahead.

“It has a very positive effect on the relationship that I’m able to build with these students going forward,” Auerbach says. “We’re relating as people in the way that one relates to their professors after they graduate, sowing the groundwork for a future relationship when we can be just people in the world together—collaborators or friends.”

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Grad

The Highest Beam

The new athletics, recreation and wellness centerThe new athletics, recreation and wellness center adjacent to Bridges Auditorium topped out with the raising of the highest beam in November.

Scheduled to open this fall, the 99,925 square-foot building will feature not only facilities for Pomona-Pitzer Athletics but also a vastly expanded fitness area, plentiful locker rooms, three classrooms, two weight rooms and two large studios for activities such as yoga or spinning.

“This is part of how we reinvent wellness on our campus,” says Miriam Merrill, director of athletics and professor of physical education, noting that wellness is a component of the College’s 2020 Strategic Vision.

Once it opens, visitors to the athletics center may notice a small detail that gives Project Manager Brian Faber pride. The room number of the first-floor studio is a nod to Pomona lore: Studio 147.

Legacies

Dr. Martin Hyung-Il Lee

Dr. Martin Hyung-Il LeeLee, the father of Pomona College Trustee Bobby Lee ’02 and Jenny Lee ’07, immigrated to the U.S. from South Korea in 1974, becoming the first in his family to graduate college before going on to medical school with the help of scholarships supplemented by student loans.

As a doctor, Lee for decades served immigrants in Los Angeles’ Koreatown, sometimes even accepting copayments in windowsill chili peppers from elderly widows with limited incomes.

Now students on Lee’s same path to the American dream will benefit from a $1 million gift to Pomona College devoted entirely to scholarships. The Dr. Martin Hyung-Il Lee Scholarship Fund is for students facing financial hardships who come from immigrant families, are first-generation college students and/or are pursuing careers in science or medicine.

Lee’s son Bobby and daughter-in-law Sophia Whang established the fund to honor Dr. Lee, who died in 2021 at the age of 64.

“My father lived the American dream, and this is a way to carry on his memory and ideals,” says Bobby Lee, president and COO of Los Angeles-based JRK Property Holdings.

Barbara Barnard Smith ’42

Barbara Barnard Smith ’42Smith’s remarkable support for the College and non-Western music continued at her passing last year at the age of 101. She left more than $3.5 million to the Music Department through a planned gift, bringing her support to the College over the years to $5.7 million.

Half of her final gift will support the future renovation of Music Department facilities and the naming of a space in honor of the late Professor of Music Katherine J. Hagedorn. The other half will further endow the existing Barbara B. Smith ’42 Fund for Non-Western Music to support ethnomusicology curriculum and other instruction, programming, equipment and performances of non-Western music at the College. Smith’s support made possible Pomona’s non-Western music ensembles, including the Balinese gamelan, West African and Afro-Cuban ensembles.

After graduating from Pomona, Smith studied at the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester before embarking on a career teaching at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa from 1949 to 1982. Noting the university’s diverse student body, Smith introduced classes in hula and Hawaiian chant, Korean dance, Chinese dulcimer and Japanese gagaku (court music). She founded UH Mānoa’s ethnomusicology program and established its master’s and Ph.D. ethnomusicology degree programs.

Sumner’s Century

Sumner HallDuring 1921-1922, Pomona relocated its early administration building, Sumner Hall, from what is now Marston Quad to its current location east of Bridges Hall of Music. Today, Sumner houses the financial aid and admissions offices, drawing thousands of visitors every year from around the world as the starting place for campus tours. After more than a year with Sumner closed in the pandemic (and tours online only), visitors are now returning to campus and Sumner is sure to resume its role as one of the busiest spots at Pomona.

Aging Well

Jill GrigsbyJill Grigsby was a young woman in her late 20s when she began studying the aging process.

In June, she retired as the Richard Steele Professor of Social Sciences and professor of sociology after 38 years at Pomona. The researcher, in a way, has become her own subject, or at least the beneficiary of her own expertise.

For years, Grigsby has lent her knowledge to the City of Claremont as a member of its Committee on Aging. She helped create the Pomona College class auditing program that has spread across The Claremont Colleges, allowing senior citizens to sit in on many courses at no cost with the permission of the professor. She also has organized regular talks by professors for retired groups in the community. Now, she is among them, and turning her gaze inward.

“I have to realize now that the unexpected is really part of the aging process,” Grigsby says.

Whether that’s something like COVID-19 that affects everyone or something more personal, “there will be some other catastrophe and it’s realizing that life is not just going to go on smoothly,” she says, noting the many health issues that can arise as we grow older.

Even as she plans to travel for fun, Grigsby intends to continue pursuing her wide-ranging research interests, which include population trends, the high societal value of pets in Japan and suburban walking trails as gathering places for people of different races and ethnicities. With the privilege afforded her in retirement, she has taken a campus office in Baldwin House, built in 1890 and former home to the first College president.

“I know that it’s really important to construct a schedule,” she says. “So, I’m getting a new office and figuring out what my new schedule is going to be.”

Solemn Surprise

Eric Myers ’80 was placing flags on gravesEric Myers ’80 was placing flags on graves for Memorial Day with his daughter’s church youth group when he encountered a solemn Pomona connection 3,000 miles from campus. Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery in New York is the resting place for members of the Smiley family, including Albert K. Smiley, the Pomona trustee of the late 1800s whose name is on one of Pomona’s oldest residence halls, where Myers lived his junior year. Today, Myers, who had come across the grave years ago but didn’t remember the exact spot, works at SUNY New Paltz, home to Smiley Art Building, named for the family whose philanthropy supported colleges and civic enterprises on both coasts.

Quoted

bicycle“I came late to bicycle riding.
When I first learned or tried to learn, I rode myself straight into the back of a car and didn’t pick up a bike for maybe three years after that.”

—Ken McCloud ’07,
who today is policy director for the League of American Bicyclists, appearing on the Sagecast.

Eager Readers

Eager ReadersSagehens have always been proudly bookish, so it is no surprise the admissions team’s decision to send a handpicked tome to each U.S. student admitted in spring went over well, winning raves on social media. “Pomona is amazing,” wrote one poster on Reddit. “They keep winning my heart.”

“Our goal was to send a personalized mailing that, in a way, assured students we had indeed read their applications, and, most importantly, really seen them and their interests,” says Paola Reyes Noriega, assistant dean of admissions.

The eight books were recommendations from College staff or were works by guest speakers the College has recently welcomed, such as There There author Tommy Orange. Admissions officers picked which one to send based on what they learned about the admitted students in applications, offering the perfect way for soon-to-be Sagehens to open a new chapter at Pomona.

Not Pictured: Make Your Home Among Strangers by Jennine Capó Crucet, Real Life by Brandon Taylor and The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett

Bookshelf

Sagehens publish prolifically. The latest books from Pomona alumni and faculty.

Cecil Skateboarding