Fall 2016 /The Oxtoby Years/

Oxtoby Memories, Part 5

The story of the Sontag Center for Collaborative Creativity is really the story of how David started out with a dream for The Claremont Colleges, how he managed to inspire a significant donor and how he managed to bring all of the five undergraduate colleges together to make it possible. And to me that’s characteristic of David—he has an end goal in mind; he is willing to take the time and figure out a process that will allow people to buy in; he is willing to enlist help from lots of different sources to get there; and he’s got an enormous amount of patience in seeing the big picture and being able to find a path to the place he wants to get to.

Maria Klawe
President, Harvey Mudd College


I’m a big fan of David’s, and one reason is his commitment to the arts. He’s worked really hard over the years to figure out, from a physical plant point of view, how we can do a better job of teaching the arts. Certainly, the Studio Art Hall is one example, and his commitment to building a new art museum is another. I know the time he’s put in—his work with the architects, the late-night hearings and City Council meetings. He’s really put his heart and soul into seeing it forward, so that we can have these gorgeous buildings that will last years and years for thousands of students to experience and appreciate and to learn under those roofs.

Janet Benton ’79


It was very clear to me from my first interview that David was really deeply involved in this search. You could see in his eyes that he cared a lot about the Sontag Center. Then David called me personally to talk about how it had gone and what the next steps would be, and he spent some time on the phone with me at 9 o’clock on a Saturday night. And when I came back for a full day, he picked me up at the hotel at 7:30 in the morning in his car. Seeing his commitment made a big difference in my interest and appreciation of the job.

Fred Leichter
Founding Director of the Sontag Center for Collaborative Creativity


I remember when James Turrell came to campus for the Skyspace project. He looked at the site in the courtyard between Lincoln and Edmunds halls, and then we were up in the conference room talking to David about it, and Turrell was sketching out Skyspace images, and David was really engaged. They started talking about materials and the effect of light and chemical interactions, and Turrell said something about rust, and David said, ‘I’m really interested in rust!’ When I think of David, I think of that conversation—the ability to merge science and the humanities and the arts and to think about things differently and to feed off someone else’s ideas.

Kathleen Howe
Director of the Pomona College Museum of Art