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Daring Minds Campaign Launch

This speech was presented at the public launch of Campaign Pomona: Daring Minds on October 16, 2010. Text of the speech is available below the video.

The world needs daring minds!

From the days of our founding, in a Southern California desert surrounded by granite and sagebrush, to the high-technology era of the 21st century, bold and courageous minds have shaped and guided Pomona College. In similar fashion, the students who have graduated from this College have used their intellectual gifts, creative energy and commitment to change the world.

Today we launch a campaign that seeks to transform the Pomona education in ways that will make it second to none, building upon the solid foundation laid by the generations that preceded us. We continue to challenge--we dare--all students in this College to reach even higher: to move beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries, to seek experiences that lie outside of their comfort zones, to aspire to solve the big problems that face our world, and to gain the skills and knowledge that will help to ensure their success. In order to achieve this overarching goal, we are asking our closest friends to join us in partnership as we  move forward.

The videos that we are seeing feature four remarkable students, individuals who have taken advantage--in bold and adventurous ways--of a Pomona education as they prepare for their futures.  But we need to remember that these individual students are shaped by the community of which they are a part.  The Pomona experience involves, at its very core, collaboration, teamwork, and shared support.  From the seminar in which faculty and students engage in the analysis of a text, to the laboratory where a team designs and builds a new telescope, to the football field where athletes work together to execute a play, the college experience builds community for each one of our students.

Pomona is a residential liberal arts college, that uniquely American construct that over time has come to represent the gold standard in higher education. The Pomona experience begins in the classroom, where discussion and independent thinking are fostered. It moves from there to other forms of faculty-student and staff-student interaction, from office hours to joint research to informal conversations all over campus. It continues 24-7 in the residence halls, where, beginning with the first-year sponsor groups, students become part of an academic community that continually engages and challenges them.  From performing in plays and making art to singing in the choir and playing on a sports team, each Pomona student has the opportunity to learn from fellow students and to share in the life of the College. The wide range of clubs and student-run organizations provides opportunities for leadership and ways to connect with communities beyond the campus.

The campus community extends beyond the students, faculty, and staff to alumni, parents, and friends around the country and across the world. The alumni of this College--nearly 21,000 strong--remain part of the Pomona community throughout their lives, returning for reunions and often engaging with faculty mentors and current students. One of the delights of my job as president is to meet alumni and learn, again and again, of their passionate connection to this College and the ways that their Pomona education has transformed their own lives. Through them, the College of today remains connected to our past as we plan for our future. And it is a constant pleasure to hear from Pomona parents about the experiences of their sons and daughters--how the College is challenging them to reach their full potential and, on occasion, to receive suggestions of ways in which we might improve. Parents are very much a part of our community, whether they visit campus or simply learn about us from their children.

As many of you know, I am a scientist by training and experience. My core area of research has involved the study of nucleation. Consider a sample of water, purified and cooled slightly below its normal freezing point. It stands in a state of suspended possibility, not changing at all until a tiny seed crystal of ice, the nucleating agent, is added; then the entire sample quickly and dramatically freezes. The daring minds that we educate at Pomona College have the possibility to serve as nucleating agents in the world around them, to enter into situations that have the potential for change and to provide the seed for transformation.

Campaign Pomona: Daring Minds presents a dramatic opportunity to provide a nucleating seed for change on our campus. When I first came to Pomona College nearly eight years ago and met students, faculty, staff, trustees and alumni during the presidential selection process, I was struck by the lack of complacency in this community and the willingness to contemplate change, to take risks and to aim higher. Pomona College is ambitious in its goals to become even stronger. There is tremendous potential in this College, and this campaign is a critical step toward releasing this potential.

The founders of this College dared to plan and establish a “college of the New England type,” and in the creative vision of architect Myron Hunt--architect for this very building--this plan found physical expression. The boldness of President James Blaisdell led to the formation of The Claremont Colleges, a consortium unique in higher education that still sets the standard for institutional cooperation in the academic world. We follow these heroic planners of the past with our own plans, conceived for the challenges of a different century but no less ambitious in scope and impact.

We seek, quite simply, to lead the country and the world in the quality and accessibility of the education we offer. Through increased support for financial aid, we will set the standard for affordability for students from all walks of life. Through a renewed emphasis on the arts, we will encourage more opportunities for creative expression from all students. Through substantive summer research and internship opportunities for each student--not just for a selected elite--we will add a critical component to the current eight semesters of study.  And, finally, through building bridges to the communities that surround us, as well as making connections across the world, we will prepare Pomona students to be enlightened decision-makers.

As students walk through the College gates, either during their four years on campus or when they leave this community at graduation, they read the historic charge of President Blaisdell: “They only are loyal to this College who departing bear their added riches in trust for mankind.”  Many institutions talk about the importance of giving back, but at Pomona College, the notion is etched into our granite gates and into our hearts. In this campaign, we seek to provide future Pomona College students with opportunities, the “added riches,” that will prepare them for committed lives of meaning and distinction. We have a challenging job in front of us to achieve the goals of this Campaign. Thank you for your support of this mission.