Fall 2016 /The Oxtoby Years/

Oxtoby Memories, Part 3

It is hard to imagine Pomona without President Oxtoby. For more than a decade, David served the Pomona community well. He encouraged students to grow intellectually, challenged graduates to tackle big issues, and motivated all of us to take real, meaningful action to make the world a better place. I’ve come to know David quite well, and I’ve always been inspired by his deep commitment to fighting climate change. I have spent my adult life working to solve climate change, so it’s an issue that is personal to me. It won’t be solved by one person or one country.  We can only solve this by coming together to learn, educate others and work towards a solution. That’s why President Oxtoby’s work to educate and engage with students on climate change has been critical to our fight, and it’s why I’m more optimistic than ever about finally solving our generation’s greatest challenge.

—Sen. Brian Schatz ’94
U.S. Senator from Hawaii


He’s always done what he thought was right for the institution, even when it was hard. Sometimes, when you’re serving others, you have to put your own feelings on hold. He was always able to do that and to listen to people on both sides of the issues.

Rick Hazlett
Professor Emeritus of Geology


I read his CV, and I noticed his passion for environmental chemistry. So I said, ‘Oh, this is an opportunity.’ So I sent him an email and said, ‘What if the two of us were to team-teach a course, you know, a serious course in environmental chemistry?’ And he thought it was a wonderful idea. And it was a great team effort. David handled everything with the atmosphere, gas-phase, and then I dealt with the oceans and the land—the solid-phase. And he was always prepared, gave clear presentations and was simply on top of the material.

Wayne Steinmetz
Professor Emeritus of Chemistry


I majored in chemistry, so David factored into my life pretty early on because of his background as a chemist. I was always really impressed by him. I mean, he literally wrote our chemistry textbook for freshman year. I got to know him a little bit when I took the Environmental Chemistry course, but we really didn’t get to know each other very well until the end of my time at Pomona, when he helped me with my application to Cambridge. I think he is just such a calming influence. He really takes the time to sit down and listen to what you’re saying before he starts trying to give advice.

Mike Gormally ’11


I think President Oxtoby is probably one of the most outspoken leaders on college campuses when it comes to sustainability. For instance, we went to the Climate Round Table at the White House together last year. That was a small group of about 20 presidents who went to D.C. to speak with leaders at the White House. So I’ve seen his leadership in that setting, and then you see the emphasis on sustainability here on campus—the energy efficiency of the new buildings, for example—and you see him talking about carbon pricing, which is not something a lot of college presidents feel comfortable doing. But he has such a complete understanding of what’s going on, and he’s active in the community. He’s a real leader.

Tom Erb ’18

Read more Oxtoby memories, part 4