A Sustainable Garden Beside Marston Quad

Graphic Credit: Ben McCoy/Department of Space

Graphic Credit: Ben McCoy/Department of Space

Alongside the parade of young oaks planted beside Stover Walk to replace some of the trees lost in the 2022 windstorm, a new sustainable garden is taking root in the beds next to Marston Quad’s grassy expanse.

Once it is established in two to three years, the Marston Quad Sustainable Garden will require minimal to no irrigation. It includes plants such as California sagebrush1, white sage2 and chamise3 that have many uses among the Tongva people, the traditional caretakers of the land Pomona College now occupies. Other plantings with importance to Indigenous peoples include chaparral yucca4, mulefat5, toyon6, manzanita7  and single-leaf pinyon pines8.

While many of the established plants such as camellias and azaleas whose blooms have signaled the arrival of spring for generations remain, the new plantings include 30 species native to California, among them desert mallow9, hummingbird sage10 and California fuchsia11. Designed by Claremont landscape architect Ben McCoy, the garden will have signs that identify the plant species in the Tongva language as well as by their English and Latin names, thanks to input from Tina Calderon, a culture bearer of Gabrielino Tongva, Chumash and Yoeme descent, and Char Miller, W.M. Keck Professor of Environmental Analysis and History.

The decision to create a more drought-tolerant landscape featuring native plants was guided in part by the research of environmental analysis students Lucy Whitman Sandmeyer ’21, Madi Brothers ’22, Owen Hoffsten ’22 and Maya Edstrom SC ’22, who completed their 2022 senior capstone project report, “Roots & Resilience: Reimagining Marston Quad after the Windstorm,” under the guidance of Professor Guillermo Douglass-Jaimes. The group surveyed alumni, students, staff and faculty, receiving the majority of input from alumni, with more than 300 responses. Alumni also had an opportunity to voice their opinions during the 2022 Alumni Weekend in one of two charrettes held by the student researchers.

The survey indicated that most of the Pomona community sees Marston Quad as the heart of campus, the students reported, and supports a landscape plan that “maintains the same open and green design as before the windstorm, features shade trees—especially native oaks—and [is] prepared to withstand the changing climate.”

‘Easter Egg’ Hunt

The season of searching for colored eggs is past, but Brian Faber, director of project management in the Office of Facilities and Campus Services, invites people to search for eight hidden examples of the number 47 on campus. Seven of them are identical, and two different types can be found at the new Center for Athletics, Recreation and Wellness. All of them can be seen from the exterior and are permanent, Faber says. Happy hunting. We haven’t found any yet.

Award-Winning ‘TSL’

The oldest college newspaper in Southern California is still thriving—and still in print every Friday when class is in session.

Popovich at Pomona

Popovich at Pomona

The Student Life, founded in 1889, brought home 20 awards at the recent California College Media Association conference in San Francisco, including first-place awards for best newspaper, newspaper website, overall newspaper design, interactive graphic, editorial, social media reporting, feature story, news photograph, social justice coverage and news series in its category of publications on four-year campuses with 15,000 or fewer students.

TSL also claimed third nationally for newspaper and fourth nationally for website in its category in the Associated Collegiate Press awards. Recent editors-in-chief of TSL, the newspaper of The Claremont Colleges, include Jasper Davidoff ’23 and Jenna McMurtry ’24. If you’d like to stay in touch with what’s happening on campus and the work of TSL journalists, visit tsl.news or subscribe to the weekly newsletter or print edition at tsl.news/subscribe/.

‘Coach Pop’ to Hall of Fame

There was little suspense over whether Gregg Popovich would be elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. After all, the San Antonio Spurs coach has won five NBA titles and more games than any coach in the history of the league. One bit of suspense remains, though: Will he mention his early coaching days at Pomona-Pitzer in his induction speech? Tune in to the August 12 ceremony in Springfield, Massachusetts, to see.

Were You There?

Taylor Swift’s upcoming 2023 tour sparked a frenzy that turned into a fiasco for unprepared Ticketmaster.

Remember when she played Bridges Auditorium?

Taylor Swift performing in Bridges Auditorium on October 15, 2012.

Close-up photo of Taylor Swift performing in Bridges Auditorium on October 15, 2012.

Taylor Swift performs in Bridges Auditorium on October 15, 2012. Photos courtesy of Frank Micelotta for VH1 Storytellers

It’s been 10 years since Swift’s live acoustic concert on the Pomona campus on October 15, 2012. The 22-year-old played for about 3,000 of her millennial peers at The Claremont Colleges, thanks to Harvey Mudd students who leveraged strategy and social media to tally the top score in the “Taylor Swift on Campus” contest sponsored by Chegg, the textbook rental and edtech company.

The Bridges concert even led to a wedding. Tyler Womack ’15 and Vicente Robles ’16 met at Pomona and became good friends after Robles gave Womack the Swift tickets he won in a lottery. After a 10-year courtship, the couple married on campus in Richardson Garden next to Seaver House. “You Belong With Me,” was part of the early romance that led to the couple’s wedding on campus on June 18, 2022.

Swift is scheduled to launch her tour in March and wrap up in the Los Angeles area in August with multiple dates at SoFi Stadium. Never ever getting back together? Ms. Swift, it’s a mere 45 miles to Marston Quad.

A Mufti Revival

Vintage Mufti messages

Vintage Mufti messages courtesy of Kristen McCabe Romero PZ ’92, Advancement Communications and Events

There’s talk lately of strengthening connections between generations of Sagehens through the College’s traditions. One that has been missing in action was known as Mufti, a secret society whose members used to post anonymous paper messages laden with puns and other word play on buildings around campus. Often, the messages had to do with campus controversies of the moment that are indecipherable years later. In recent years, Mufti had gone silent. But in September, a message stuck to campus spots that included a bench, a lamppost and a few buildings provided commentary on the heat, drought and college rankings and concluded, “Fear not, comrades, for MUFTI is near/To bring you all some meager cheer….” It also included a QR code. Very 21st century. If you’re ready to spill some tea about Mufti past or present or tell us about your favorite Pomona tradition, write to us at pcm@pomona.edu.

The Sontag Legacy

The name Sontag is a fixture on campus, and Pomona said farewell to a benefactor whose generosity and spirit inspired many when Susan Thomas Sontag ’64 P’95 died in September, more than 28 years after being told she had terminal brain cancer and only a few years to live.

The Sontag legacy at Pomona is immense, but a guide to the family tree may be helpful. Philosophy Professor Frederick E. Sontag, known as Fred, influenced generations of students in his 57 years at the College. It is for him that the Sontag Greek Theatre in the wooded area known as the Wash is named.

Fred’s nephew Frederick B. Sontag HMC ’64, known as Rick, met Susan Thomas while growing up in Long Beach and reconnected when she transferred from UC Berkeley to Pomona when he was a student at Harvey Mudd. They became inseparable, married and eventually purchased a small aviation components business, Unison Industries, that they built into a company with 1,500 employees and nearly $200 million in annual revenue before selling it to General Electric in 2002.

The couple became extraordinary supporters of education, particularly with gifts to Pomona and Harvey Mudd College. Each college has a residence hall named in their honor. (Pomona’s LEED Platinum Sontag Hall was completed in 2011.) The couple also established the Rick and Susan Sontag Center for Collaborative Creativity, popularly known as the Hive, to serve The Claremont Colleges, providing both initial operating expenses and an endowment to ensure its longevity.

Beyond campus, they established the Sontag Foundation for brain cancer research and the Brain Tumor Network to help patients affected by brain tumors.

“Their commitment to a greater cause serves as a reminder of our community’s enduring mission,” says Pomona College President G. Gabrielle Starr.

Food Trucks on the Meal Plan

Trucks along Stover Walk became a familiar sight during the past year. The College occasionally invited food vendors that included the usual burger and taco trucks along with offerings from vendors such as West Side Banh Mi, Bollywood Bites and Sugo Italiano.

Students visiting the trucks could use their meal plans. The popular food option was a creative response to temporary staffing shortages in the dining halls caused by widespread labor shortages that accompanied the pandemic.

Top 5 for ‘Best Financial Aid’

Pomona is No. 3 on The Princeton Review’s 2022 list for Best Financial Aid among private colleges. Pomona is one of a handful of institutions committed to need-blind admissions and to meeting the full demonstrated financial need of all students who enroll.

And the Oscar Goes To …

At the moment when Encanto won the Oscar, Rose Portillo ’75—the voice of Señora Guzmán in the 2022 Academy Award winner for best animated feature—was on her way home after performing in a play.

“It happened as I was driving in. Friends were texting me and saying ‘You won! Congratulations!’” Portillo says. “It still feels odd to realize that I actually am a part of this. I still look at it and think: Isn’t that wonderful? My friends won. This is a lovely moment and, I feel, a deserving moment. And then I have another moment of oh, it’s kind of me, too.”

An accomplished actor, writer, director and visual artist as well as a Pomona College theatre lecturer, Portillo was too busy to enjoy the Oscars until after her afternoon performance in the nearly monthlong run of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Anna in the Tropics at Pasadena’s A Noise Within theatre.

“By the time I got home, there was a watch party next door,” Portillo says. “When I walked in, they were all, ‘Congratulations, congratulations,’ which was very sweet and lovely.”

Scene from the film, Encanto. Courtesy of Disney

Besides voicing Sra. Guzmán, mother of the hunky Mariano, Portillo spent two years developing the character of Abuela Alma Madrigal, matriarch of the warm Colombian family whose magical powers not only help them to survive after fleeing a junta but also help to sustain their community.

Portillo calls participating in the production “joyful” and is particularly proud of the animation’s realistic depiction of varied skin tones within a family. She also talks about the invisible effects of unspoken trauma reverberating through generations and the potential for healing. 

She wasn’t the only Sagehen involved in Encanto. Jasmine Reed ’12 was an editorial production supervisor for Walt Disney Animation Studios. Encanto is being celebrated throughout the world. “It is proof that the better we come to truly know each other, the better we can embrace each other. That’s the kind of project I’m always looking for,” Portillo says.

Watson Fellows ’22

For sheer armchair traveling pleasure, we present this year’s Thomas J. Watson Fellowship winners:

Xiao Jiang ’22 and Mark Diaz ’22 are among 42 students selected from 41 private college and university partners to receive $40,000 grants to pursue research projects during 12 months of international travel.

Jiang found care and acceptance in New York City’s Chinatown at the age of 5 when she and her mother came to the U.S. from China. After arriving at Pomona as a Questbridge Match Recipient with a full four-year scholarship, Jiang was worried about returning to her Chinatown for fear of seeing it changed—gentrified —into a place she would no longer recognize as home. As a sophomore, she took an anthropology course and studied the effects of gentrification on Los Angeles’ Chinatown. For her senior project in anthropology, she created a short documentary on how COVID-19 has affected Chinatowns in New York and Los Angeles.

Jiang will spend her Watson year traveling to China, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, the United Kingdom, France and Belgium to learn how immigrants and Chinese residents engage with Chinatowns to develop a sense of self within a community of like-minded people.

Diaz was a junior in high school when he was first introduced to kabuki, a traditional form of Japanese theatre that incorporates dance, music and mime. At Pomona, he drew Emeritus Professor Leonard Pronko out of retirement to study under him and to have Pronko teach a masterclass on kabuki. They staged Narukami Thunder God at Pomona’s Alumni Weekend in 2019 before Pronko’s death later that year.

Thinking about his own ancestors, the Maya and the Basque, Diaz wondered what type of theatre they developed and how it is also under-staged or recognized in the U.S. Diaz will travel to Japan, Spain, Belize and Guatemala to explore traditional dramatic forms: kabuki in Japan, religious dance ceremony in Guatemala and Belize, and pastorale in Spain.


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