Like most American colleges, Pomona has its unique traditions and its distinctive jargon—all of those interlocking, mysterious bits of inside information that separate the initiated from the outsider. To give you a head start on feeling right at home in the midst of a typical Pomona conversation, here’s a glossary of special Pomona terms and traditions you might need to know.
As the Pomona Student Handbook once put it, “To the uninitiated, 47 is a mystery. To knowledgeable Pomona Sagehens, 47 is dogma. To sociologists, 47 is a prime example of a minor piece of whimsy that somehow developed into a legend of mythical proportions...” In 1964, a tongue-in-cheek student research project designed to “prove” that the number 47 appears more often in nature than other random numbers turned into a wholesale 47 hunt that has continued to this day. Since then, Sagehens have discovered this quintessential random number in the most unexpected places:
Pomona College is located at Exit 47 of the San Bernardino Freeway; the pipe organ in the Thatcher Music Building has 47 pipes visible in its top row; and in the film, Towering Inferno, actor Richard Chamberlain ’56 was the 47th person in line to be saved. On a more historic scale, the Declaration of Independence has 47 sentences and the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn are 47 degrees apart.
See how it works? Next time you encounter a 47 on a road sign or in a textbook, you’ll notice—and probably think of Pomona. Alumni have not only found their magic number all over the world; they’ve planted it in popular movies and TV shows for others to find.
As the founding member of The Claremont Colleges, Pomona is the oldest and largest of the five undergraduate colleges that sit on interlocking campuses in Claremont. Known as the “5Cs” (a term that ignores the two graduate institutions that are also part of the mix), these five campuses multiply the on-campus social climate and provide the opportunity to take classes at other colleges, eat in a different dining hall each day, join clubs that span the campuses, and benefit in many other ways from this unique consortium. Used as an adjective, “5C” signifies a program or club involving students from all five colleges.
The Associated Students of Pomona College (ASPC) is the elected student government that coordinates student activities and allocates funds from student fees.
Pomona is only an hour away from the Pacific beaches, but when Pomona students refer to Walker Beach or Wig Beach, they’re talking about something much closer at hand. These two large, grassy recreational areas of the campus—each including, among other things, a sand volleyball pit—are where lots of Pomona students hang out on those warm, sunny afternoons in September or April—or for that matter, January or February.
You may remember the Borg of TV fame—the swarming, half-cybernetic zombies from reruns of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Well, Pomona, too, has its Borg, and the two may well be related. (See Star Trek, below.) At Pomona, “the Borg” is short for Oldenborg Center for Modern Languages and International Relations—which includes, among other things, a residence hall where students live and work in one of six foreign languages. If you visit Oldenborg, you may be struck by its warrens of maze-like hallways, reminiscent— some say—of those of the TV Borg, but don’t expect to see any zombies unless you visit during finals week.
“The Coop” has long been the nickname of the student-run snack-bar and campus store operated by ASPC. Located in the Smith Campus Center, the Kinsmith Coop Fountain serves a menu of sandwiches and salads, not to mention some of the world’s best shakes, and offers a congenial place to meet friends, play a game of pool, or zap some aliens in a video game. The Coop Store sells Pomona logo items, school supplies, and sundries.
Walk south from Seaver Theatre and you’ll find yourself in an unexpected, pastoral world known to students as the Organic Farm, or simply, “the Farm.” Created by a group of sustainability minded students on a piece of fallow campus land, the Organic Farm has now been officially adopted by the College and built into the curriculum of the Environmental Analysis program.
Sometimes called “Pomona’s backyard,” Joshua Tree National Park (or more familiarly, “J-Tree”) is an expanse of gloriously desolate high desert, home to the arthritically beautiful Joshua tree made famous by Tom Wolfe in his book, The Right Stuff. Located about an hour from campus, the park is a favorite place for students to camp, hike and catch a fiery sunset.
Short for “On the Loose,” OTL is a 5C (see above) outdoor club that sponsors more than 150 organized outings each year, from backpacking and rock-climbing to sailing and skiing. In addition, OTL’s equipment loan program equips students for countless informal weekend and day trips to nearby beaches, mountains and deserts.
Where can you go to eat breakfast beneath a priceless work of art? Frary Dining Hall, home of the famous Prometheus fresco by José Clemente Orozco—one of “los tres grandes,” the three great Mexican muralists. Finished in 1930, the work represents the Greek myth of the Titan who stole fire from the gods and gave it to humankind.
At the center of Pomona’s campus is a garden called Marston Quadrangle—known to students as “the Quad.” Developed in 1923, this beautiful, 4¾-acre green space and formal garden contains 101 trees, ranging from sycamores to redwoods. It’s award-winning landscaping is largely responsible for Pomona’s reputation as “a college in a garden.”
Pomona traces its distinctive mascot (the Sagehen) back to World War I, when its original mascot—the Huns—became unpopular. Legend has it that to save money, the teams changed the “u” on their uniforms to an “e,” exchanging a dreaded nomadic raider for a bird that reputedly runs in circles when threatened.
Pomona students’ most prized perk might be the late night provender they get four evenings a week from 10:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. at Frary Dining Hall. Snack food choices vary night to night, ranging from nachos to corndogs, meatballs to muffins. The Sunday through Wednesday ritual is a chance to socialize while procrastinating just a tad on that looming research paper.
Unique to Pomona College, sponsor groups are designed to help students make the transition from home to dorm life. These co-ed groups of 10-20 first-years live in adjacent rooms in the residence halls, along with two sophomore sponsors who help them learn the ropes of campus life.
As writer and co-producer of three series of Star Trek sequels (The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager), Joe Menosky ’79 made Pomona’s magic number part of pop culture. Over the years, viewers noticed the number in episode after episode. The crew stops at Sub-space Relay Station 47. Data is unconscious for 47 seconds. A character shrinks to 47 centimeters. Even after Menosky left the shows, the 47 tease was continued by other writers and spread to other shows. Menosky has never confirmed or denied the rumor that the villainous Borg was named for his old dorm. (See Borg, above.)
The downtown area of Claremont—known as “the Village”—is only a block away from campus. Offering a range of shops and restaurants, the Village is now expanding with the newly constructed “Village West,” including a range of new eateries and a five-screen art cinema.
Once a flood break, this five-foot cinderblock wall now serves as a free-speech forum where Pomona students can paint birthday greetings, advertise parties, or scrawl humorous reflections. Walker Wall's messages range from the profound to the trivial, from simple to poetic.
West of the Sontag Greek Theatre and south of Pomona’s athletic facilities, Pomona’s campus takes a turn for the rustic—with paths crisscrossing acres of native live oaks and desert scrub.