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Pat Newton '51 Honored With the Alumni Distinguished Service Award

Pat Newton has dedicated her life to improving her community. Lucky for Pomona College, she didn’t stray far from her alma mater.

A graduate of the class of 1951, Newton married her husband Sanford, a Claremont McKenna graduate, just two days after Commencement. “Four years later I had four kids,” says Newton. “We’ve been married 60 years this June and I’ve been involved with Pomona College most of that time.”

Newton began her service with the Alumni Relations Office during her five-year reunion and hasn’t quit since. In addition to her involvement with every reunion in some manner, she’s participated in countless phoneathons and made many calls in between—especially during reunion years. She chaired the Annual Fund Alumni Network, a committee that coordinated ways to get alumni involved on campus both financially and as volunteers, and is currently finishing a three-year term on the Pomona College Alumni Board.

For such steadfast and outstanding service to Pomona, Newton is this year’s recipient of the Alumni Distinguished Service Award, which is bestowed annually in recognition of an alum’s selfless commitment and ongoing service to the College.

“The College has benefited greatly from Pat ever since she was a student here,” says Craig Arteaga-Johnson, director of Annual Giving. “It’s not just her generosity of time and energy. She is warm and friendly and a real can-do person. She brings such a wonderful personality to all that she does—she’s really brought her class closer together and everyone she touches closer to the College.”

Newton says one of the reasons she enjoys her volunteer work is the chance to be on campus. “I think we are so fortunate to have such a lovely campus and to have a Board of Trustees and an administration who feel strongly that the campus is worthy of being maintained in a very, very lovely way.”

Making connections to Sagehens of all generations is also a lure.  “I enjoy the people. I enjoy the relationships to various age groups,” says Newton, who has lived nearby in Pomona in the same house for 49 years. “Most of the time, I’ve been the oldest person on the Alumni Board. First couple of times I did it, it was intimidating. But they’ve all been very generous. And I’ve enjoyed the fact that they’re all brighter than heck and enthusiastic and work hard at what the Board does to ensure the relationship of the alumni to the College.”

Pomona isn’t Pat’s only community service passion. She has been heavily involved in Girls Scouts her entire life, including being a leader while on campus at Pomona. She served on local Scout boards and committees, was the local council president, and spent five years on the National Board of Directors. She’s also involved internationally, raising funds for a small center for older girls in Mexico.

Her service to United Way was recognized with a Gold Key Award in the 1970s and both she and her husband worked with the Jaycees. She and a group of community members founded a volunteer center in Pomona in the 1970s that assisted organizations in finding long-term volunteers and developing boards and committees. She is also a long-standing volunteer and board member with Mt. San Antonio Gardens.

Newton still works with the Girl Scouts and also with the Fairplex Friends, which supports the L.A. County Fair in an ad hoc way to promote the educational opportunities found at the Fair, including raising funds to provide buses for local school children to attend the Fair.

“I feel it’s very important to [give back] because if you live in a community, you want your community to be successful and welcoming and prosperous,” says Newton. “I’ve gotten involved in a number of things just because I’m interested in making the community a good place for families to live and for children to grow up.”

Newton’s husband Sanford was a realtor in Pomona for his entire career and though retired, his sign still hangs on their home. While their children attended colleges other than Pomona, two of Newton’s grandchildren are Sagehens: Michael Bergeron ’05 and Christopher Bergeron ’14.

“I feel fortunate that I was able to go to Pomona,” says Pat, whose father Howard Wickersham attended Pomona and graduated in 1924. “There was no doubt in my mind where I was going to go to college. I didn’t apply anywhere else!

“If you were in school with people who were just before you or after you, you have the feeling that there’s no problem picking up the phone and saying, ‘Hello, this is Pat, how are you?’ It’s a connection that’s really tremendous. I am particularly fond of the fact that our class really seems to have bonded extraordinarily well and we enjoy getting together on a five-yearly basis and some more than that.”