Campaign Launch Speech: Former President Peter Stanley
It’s very moving to be with you, particularly in this setting. I stood here, with many of you, when we launched Pomona’s last great campaign 13 years ago. And I am thinking tonight, as I thought then, that the greatness of this college is not primarily in its buildings, its endowment, or even its curriculum, but in its people. The experience people have here literally changes lives; and that, in turn, creates the sense of community, the shared values and aspirations, the loyalty that draws us back whenever the College needs us. It’s the very definition of a virtuous circle.
Ours is an unusually inclusive community that embraces people who differ from each other in numerous ways--age, gender, class, ethnicity, politics, religion – but share a deep commitment to Pomona and to each other. That in itself is rare in modern American life, because technology encourages people to segment or silo themselves with others like them. It makes us into what 18th-century Americans would have called a commonwealth, an extended family of people willing to believe in each other and invest jointly in a cause larger than themselves.
There are many ways of measuring whether a college is as good as it hopes to be. But at highly selective liberal arts colleges such as Pomona the most compelling measure is what graduates do with their lives. Our students are amazingly smart coming through the door, so it doesn’t tell you much if they can read or compute a little better on the way out. And the specific job skills that would be a good measure of success elsewhere are only by-products of what really matters to us. The most compelling evidence that Pomona provides a transformative educational experience is found in the lives of graduates. And what you see when you look at the Pomona family, is that this college empowers people not only with the disposition and the skills to be lifelong learners, but also with the intellectual and moral resilience to lead good, productive, creative, and joyful lives, even in changing times, even in the face of adversity.
Improved programs, positions, buildings, and financial aid are the ways we invest in people. And no institution I know puts such investments to better use. Most of my time these days is spent in the exquisite art of being retired. But from time to time, I also work as a headhunter, a search consultant, helping colleges and universities find leaders for the future. As a result, I’ve seen a lot of American colleges close up; and I now have a perspective on higher education that is even broader than I had when I was focused above all on this one institution. I’m here to tell you that what generations of people have built at Pomona, and what today’s Sagehens are adding to in their own ways, is not just a source of local pride or happy memories; it is an example of what education in the liberal arts tradition can be, at its best. Pomona has become the goal to which other colleges all over this country, aspire. It is, as President Blaisdell said, a trust that we hold for our society, for our nation, for our world.
We are here tonight because we embrace that trust. We are here to affirm that our generation is going to step forward to assure that Pomona has the means to continue being not only the premier liberal arts college in the western half of our country, but also one of the great exemplars of liberal arts education anywhere. And history tells us that we are not alone, that Pomona people will respond, because they have done so before--in the Centennial Campaign led ably and passionately by David Alexander and Russ Smith, and in The Campaign for Pomona College that was chaired by one of the great citizens of Southern California and one of the most generous of friends, Frank Ulf.
Now it is our time, our responsibility, and our honor to provide the means for Pomona to be its best and to do its best in shaping the future. Fulfilling the goals of this campaign is something we can do, and something we will do. I can’t begin to tell you how moved I am to be here, once again, with you as we launch out on that great mission.