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A Letter From the President

President David Oxtoby

The year 2008-09 will be remembered mainly for the financial crisis that turned the national economy on its head, but here at Pomona, it was also a year of significant accomplishments and developments that hold great promise for our future. In this Year in Review, we take a look back at both sides of this challenging and eventful time in the life of the College.

The report begins with a brief look at Pomona’s financial health, which remains very strong, and at some of the prudent cost-saving measures we’ve taken over the past year to keep it that way. (The conversion of our printed Annual Report to this Web-only version is one example.) We remain committed to safeguarding our most important priorities—our people and the strength of our educational programs—but we also know this cannot be done without difficult choices and that we will need the help of our many supporters more than ever before. I am proud to say that every student who needed more financial aid due to declining family incomes received help, but the resulting rise in our financial aid budget will be an ongoing challenge. No faculty or staff members lost their jobs last year due to the economic downturn, but all faced a year without salary increases and reductions by attrition that added to the workload of many. At the same time, I believe the College has never been more united, as everyone—staff, faculty, students and trustees—joined in taking a hard look at our day-to-day operations and making sure they were as efficient and well-prioritized as possible.

But though the financial downturn may have dominated the news and our own budgetary discussions, it has not diminished our commitment to our special educational mission. During 2008-09, the College continued to formulate plans for the future and to build momentum toward the launch of a major campaign next fall to help realize those exciting plans. In the report that follows, you will read about a number of the year’s more significant developments—from construction projects to faculty awards. However, I want to mention one bit of news that is not represented in the list of the year’s highlights. This is because, technically, it wasn’t announced until shortly after the 2008-09 academic year was over, but as I compose this letter, I find it to be such a positive counterpoint to the financial crisis that I think it’s important to include.

The newly created Draper Center for Community Partnerships—made possible by an extraordinary gift from Ranney Draper ’60 and his wife, Priscilla Draper—is dedicated, quite simply, to engaging our students in efforts to improve people’s lives here in the area where we live. This is an initiative that has been close to my own heart ever since my arrival here at Pomona in 2003. As I said then in my inaugural address, “There are extraordinary opportunities right here in Southern California to connect with the leading issues of our day: the environment (think of questions of energy policy, water resources, and air quality), community development (think of immigration, the schools, and the impact of political systems), and modern culture (from the Getty to the vibrant modern art scene to Hollywood and the media). We need to know our region better, and Los Angeles needs to know Pomona better.”

Cultivating strong, mutually beneficial partnerships between Pomona and the urban communities that surround us is what the Draper Center is all about. By building on existing educational outreach programs, such as the Pomona Academy for Youth Success (PAYS) and Pomona Partners, and by developing new initiatives in areas ranging from service learning to community-based research, the center will foster a growing network of opportunities for our students to share their knowledge and creativity and develop their leadership skills while helping others.

This is important for two distinct reasons. First, we owe this to the larger community we call home. Pomona is fortunate enough to be located in one of the most dynamic and diverse urban centers in the world—a setting that adds extraordinary value to a Pomona College education. It is incumbent upon us to give back to the community that has afforded us such opportunities. Second, we owe it to our students. Both community service and leadership training are vital parts of a Pomona education. The words carved into our college gate remind us of this on a daily basis: “They only are loyal to this college who, departing, bear their riches in trust for mankind.”

These words are truly a part of our heritage. They are part of who we are. They mean we understand that our responsibility extends far beyond these gates—that we are educating students not only to live good lives, but also to leave a positive mark on the world we share.

David Oxtoby
President of Pomona College