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The Annual Fund: The Lifeblood of the College

Profiles of three members of the President's Council, donors who are recognized for gifts to the Annual Fund of $10,000 and above

Osman Kibar ’92 had an edge over other international students applying to Pomona College. He had won first place in a European math championship and scored in the top 25 out of 1.5 million Turkish students on a high school entrance exam.

But the cost of attending Pomona proved daunting, although he was given 50 percent financial aid as a freshman. “After the first year, I got a full scholarship. I think it was 90 percent grant and 10 percent loan,” Kibar recalls. “Pomona didn’t even ask me twice about it. Their attitude was, ‘If you need it, we’ll give it.’ It was a 15-second discussion.”

Along with the financial aid, Kibar says his Pomona classmates generously accepted him into their social circles. “When I came to Pomona, I was 17 years old. It was my first time out of the country and I had major culture shock. Still, I had no trouble making friends,” Kibar recalls.

Unlike some Turkish friends educated in the United States, Kibar says he never felt isolated at Pomona. “Usually all the foreigners group together because it’s not that easy to make American friends. At Pomona that was never the case. Right from the start, I joined the soccer team and I made many friends from all over. I even joined a fraternity without even knowing what a fraternity was, because some of my best friends were rushing,” he says.

Kibar graduated from the 3/2 program that awards combined degrees from Pomona College and Caltech and then went on to get masters’ and doctoral degrees in applied engineering from UC San Diego. After working as a startup technology and business consultant and as a venture capitalist in New York City, Kibar has become a serial entrepreneur and inventor.

Now that he is CEO of San Diego-based Dynamic Connections, a private technology incubator that invents and commercializes new health care and energy technologies, Kibar is giving back to Pomona College. He spoke about his company at an economics senior seminar in February.

And he has become a member of the President’s Council. “I have a 2-year-old daughter.  When she was born, I started reminiscing and looking back, taking stock of what’s happened so far in my life,” Kibar says. “I realized that Pomona had given me nothing but support from the beginning. I really never did anything to pay it back. That’s when I decided I should get involved a little bit more, as much as my business allows.”

Steve Lalli ’85 was telling Pomona College President David Oxtoby how comfortable he felt pressing his classmates to increase donations in advance of their 25th reunion. The timing couldn’t have been better. “He turned the tables on me and asked if I could stretch my giving enough to get me into the President’s Council,” Lalli says. “I said I’d consider it, and then the next day I did it.”

It didn’t take much arm-twisting. Although he works as a managing director of Morgan Stanley’s prime brokerage group in its institutional equities division, Lalli says his years at Pomona better prepared him for his career in high finance than anything else—even his M.B.A. from The Wharton School.

“I’m a strong supporter of the liberal arts approach to education. I learned the math behind the finance that I do for this job when I was in high school,” he says. Though he also has a B.S. in electrical engineering from Caltech (and a B.A. in physics from Pomona, under the two schools’ joint 3/2 program), it is Pomona College where he has identified as an alumnus.

He had never heard of Pomona until a high school classmate in Portland, Ore., mentioned it. Lalli visited the campus and was hooked. “I was very impressed, especially with the weather. There was something compelling about going someplace that was different but wasn’t that far away,” he recalls.

Once at Pomona, he explained to advisor Jack Miller that he might follow his father into medicine or major in engineering. “He listened very thoughtfully and said I should consider majoring in physics, which is the basis for all the other sciences. I didn’t connect the dots to realize that Jack was a member of the Physics Department,” he says.

He never regretted his choice. After graduating from the 3/2 program, Lalli worked at Goldman Sachs in New York, then moved to San Francisco to work in investment banking, focusing on technology companies. Lalli joined Morgan Stanley in 2000, just 10 days before the NASDAQ hit its all-time high.

“Through it all, he’s been grateful for his anchoring at Pomona College. “I was required to take classes across various disciplines—some of which came naturally and some of which did not. So my mind had to stretch; I effectively learned how to learn for the best of my life. Pomona was very helpful in that regard,” Lalli says.

Eleanor W. Savage-Gildersleeve ’60 entered the U.S. Foreign Service in 1964 when only five percent of its officers were female. Because married women were barred from serving, the three other women who entered with Savage all dropped out within a few years.

So it wasn’t surprising that when she took her oral examination for the job, Savage faced an all-male board. They asked if she was a member of any minority group. “‘Yes sir,’ I said, ‘I am. I’m a woman,’” Savage recalls. “They started laughing, and then they stopped and one of them, an African American, said ‘You know, you’re right!’”

Savage passed the notoriously difficult examination and embarked on a 38-year career that took her around the globe and into the thick of international affairs.

Known as “Walli” when she was an international relations major at Pomona, Savage says her college experience prepared her for her diplomatic career. “It taught me a lot about critical thinking. It’s so key that when you leave Pomona you’re able to write well, even if you’re a math major. That’s the glory of a liberal arts college,” Savage says.

She grew up in a Navy family, living all over the U.S., but wanted to come back to the West Coast for college. By the time she entered Pomona, Savage’s father had been posted to the U.S. Embassy in Chile. Spending summers there persuaded her to join the foreign service.

The critical thinking she honed at Pomona served her well over the years in places like Mexico, the Philippines, Brazil, France, Canada and Australia, among others. But it may have come in especially useful in Panama, where Savage was the third-highest-ranking official at the U.S. Embassy during the height of tensions with the government of dictator Manuel Noriega.

And it served her well in the early 1970s, when Savage was one of the “founding mothers” of an organization that lobbied for a female-friendly rewrite of the State Department regulations. In 1972, they succeeded in getting the marriage ban revoked for the foreign service.

Savage retired in 2001 but continued working part-time as a foreign service examiner through 2004. She now lives in Ashland, Ore., where she plays bridge, hikes, skis and volunteers with the American Association of University Women and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Throughout all her travels, her ties to Pomona College remained strong, and her college roommate is still one of her best friends. “Pomona did a lot to shape me,” she says.