Campaign Launch Speech: Stewart Smith '68
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.
Aren’t these Pomona students amazing? But what’s really astounding is this: As impressed as we are by the accomplishments of Charlie, Kimbia, Chris, and Meredith, the reality is that there’s another 1,550 of them just like them on this campus right now. All of them are talented and motivated. They’re willing to take chances and they’re destined to affect their communities and maybe even nation and the world, in meaningful ways. I think this is what’s drawing us all here this evening.
I am Stewart Smith, and it is my privilege to be the chair of “Campaign Pomona: Daring Minds.” This week, with the greatest of aspirations for this college we all love, we are launching this comprehensive campaign. It is the most ambitious in the College’s history and it is one that will propel Pomona to new heights of excellence and renown. This campaign will enhance all that we value at Pomona College.
Our $250-million endeavor results from two years of strategic planning by trustees, faculty, alumni, students, staff, and administrators. It was an effort that included wide-ranging discussions at two off-site weekend-long retreats. It articulates our strategic vision, the ways we will address the necessities facing us in the early 21st century, and it outlines critical initiatives directed at the enhancement of teaching, learning and creative expression; accessibility for the best students; faculty scholarship; and broad and meaningful student experiences.
I am thrilled to report that the response to this campaign to date has been exceptional. During the so-called “quiet phase” that ends this week, and despite considerable economic turmoil, the generosity of trustees and other close friends of the College has resulted in gifts and pledges to this point amounting to a whopping $120,832,000. So as we go public, we are at 48% of the campaign goal and that’s a great start, but we have another $130 million to go.
I have a lot of reasons to care deeply about Pomona College. As many of you know, I am in the middle of three generations of Pomona alumni. My four years at Pomona College were truly transformative and my whole life owes a debt that I’m still trying to repay. I’ve also had the pleasure of serving as a trustee of the College for 22 years, including nine years as board chair. I’ve worked with three of Pomona’s nine presidents--David, Peter and David--and I’ve participated in three capital campaigns. From these various perspectives, I conclude that the College is in excellent financial shape, that it benefits from insightful leadership and dedicated staff support, that our physical plant is exceptional overall, and that our superbly talented faculty nurture and develop incredibly strong students.
More important, I believe that this small college makes a big difference. We live in a rapidly changing, ever-smaller world, one that demands dexterous minds that can deftly and creatively cross cultures and intellectual disciplines in order to shape new solutions to an ever-expanding set of problems. Pomona College, working through its exceptional faculty, is cultivating remarkable graduates to provide the very best leadership required in this complex world environment.
However, as well off as the College may be, our endowment is fully employed in the support of our existing buildings, programs, faculty, technology, and financial aid; it is fully encumbered. The fact is that we can responsibly ask no more of the endowment than it is already providing. And yet, we have new needs and aspirations, critical ones that, when realized, will transform Pomona in significant ways.
When someone suggested “Campaign Pomona: Daring Minds” as the theme for this important effort, I was immediately intrigued. For me, the word “daring” is very much like a prism. It yields a number of interesting perspectives.
Pomona’s faculty relentlessly “dares” the students of today to develop and stretch their minds. In turn, our students, like our faculty, are impressively “daring” in the boldness and complexity of their intellectual and creative pursuits. Meanwhile, former President James Blaisdell’s inscription on the College gates “dares” all alumni to bear our riches in trust for humankind.
But there is another “dare” that I would like to reflect upon briefly.
At Pomona College, capital campaigns such as this one have a much higher place than merely funding the needs of the moment (as significant as those may be). Since the College was founded in 1887, perhaps its most distinguishing characteristic has been its exceptional capacity for continual self-renewal and regeneration. The fact is this: Pomona College is one of the nation’s finest colleges today because of the ambitions and the sacrifices of our predecessors. Our forbearers did not settle into complacency or self-congratulation when they might have and we must not either. We must embrace their daring spirit.
Today, we are called upon to take up critical new initiatives at the College in support of its faculty and students. In the best tradition of our predecessors, we will respond, all of us who care about the College. We will answer with our time, with our energy, and with our resources. As the president of USC recently told his own campus, “This responsibility shouldn’t be seen as a burden; rather, it is a privilege.”
The hallowed tradition at Pomona is that each generation leaves the College ever better, and “dares” the next to come forward in similar fashion. I personally embrace this compelling charge from our predecessors, and I invite you to join me in welcoming that mandate as we establish our own legacy for the generations that will very soon follow us. The students and faculty, the staff and administrators, the alumni, the many supporters and volunteers for the College--those of today, those of yesterday, and those of tomorrow--deserve all that this campaign envisions. We must together dare to assure Pomona College’s destiny as, unmistakably, the very best liberal arts college in the world.