Pitzer Celebrates 50th Anniversary with Alumni, Students

Fifty is a milestone, indicator of longevity, and time
to celebrate accomplishments. Pitzer College, the youngest of the 5Cs, is
turning 50 and celebrating that milestone in a big way this weekend. Coinciding with Alumni Weekends across the Claremont Colleges, Pitzer’s 50th Anniversary
Celebration will culminate on the night of Saturday, May 3 with the Orange & White Ball,
which is expected to draw close to 2,000 guests donning clothing in the
school’s colors who will dine, dance, and be entertained by alumni and
students, as well as the MarchFourth Marching Band—a not-so-traditional marching band from Oregon—and a special performance by the legendary group Earth Wind & Fire. 

Earth Wind & Fire, Grammy Award-winner and inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, is slated to perform at the Steven L. Glass Commencement Plaza at 9 p.m. on Saturday. Earth Wind & Fire has produced multiple platinum albums from the 1970s into the 2000s and played at the White House during both the Clinton and Obama administrations. Their latest album, Now, Then & Forever, was released last September.

Pitzer students are generally looking forward to the Orange & White Ball, especially the Earth Wind & Fire performance, but some have misgivings about the event’s price tag. 

Some students said they feel that it would have been more prudent if the money from Pitzer parent Ron Burkle’s donation, which was made specifically to fund the concert, were dedicated to other uses. 

“Money could always be spent in more of a wise way, but I feel like everyone I’ve talked to is really excited including myself, and I feel like it it’s going to be really fun,” Genna Scarano PZ ’16 said. 

Since funding for Earth Wind & Fire and MarchFourth’s performances came from a personal donation made specifically for the concerts, some students say the college cannot be faulted for putting on the event.

“If he’s choosing to donate to Pitzer to fund this event, then I think there’s nothing wrong with it,” Will Cafritz PZ ’16 said. “It’s an exciting occasion for Pitzer to have, especially at the end of the year when everyone’s stressed with finals. It will be a nice study break for everyone who registered to go, and I don’t doubt that it will be memorable.” 

Giovanni Verduci, an exchange student from the University of Essex who will be starting his third year there in the fall, is very excited about the concert and feels extremely lucky that he is able to attend, but he has some personal misgivings, seeing this opportunity as indicative of privilege at Pitzer.

“I think it’s an unbelievably privileged opportunity Pitzer students are allowed to have because of an amazing culture of contributions,” Verduci said. “I think it’s unbelievably lucky that I’m here this year because I get to see Earth Wind & Fire, and I’ve never been able to see them. Ultimately, I can’t complain because it’s something that’s offered to me, and it’s something that’s absolutely amazing.”

The Earth Wind & Fire performance, however, is only the last event of the weekend’s festivities. 

The anniversary celebration begins today, May 2,
with what is expected to become an annual tradition, perhaps for the next 50 years: the Pitzer Ideas Fair (PIF). This event will feature a TED talk-style format focusing on how Pitzer students and alumni put their education
into action. The featured address for the PIF, by Harriet Crosby PZ ’68, a former member of the White House Office of Environmental Policy and then-U.S. President
Bill Clinton’s Council on Sustainable Development, is entitled “For Love
of Mother Earth: The Next Revolution.” Other topics to be addressed
at the PIF include multiculturalism in business ownership, advice on being an agent of change, social justice, the new radicalism, feminism, and programming
languages.

The same day, there will be an alumni wine
reception on campus and a reunion dinner at Pitzer President Laura Skandera Trombley’s
home, the first private home in Claremont to earn Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification. This evening, Sekou Andrews PZ
’94, who spoke at his own commencement, is slated to give what promises to be an inspirational, poetic, and comedic
presentation entitled “We Live What We Love.” The Friday festivities
will be topped off by Groove at the Grove performances from hip-hop artists J
Lately (Jeremy Namkung PZ ’09) and Alex Fraknoi PZ ’16.

For early risers, Trombley will lead a
brisk, five-mile wilderness hike Saturday morning. Later that morning, a mimosa brunch will be held to present the annual alumni awards. The
second annual Young Alumni Achievement Award will be presented to Brianne
Davila PZ ’04. Davila is an assistant professor of sociology and
American ethnic studies at Willamette University but will soon be employed in the Department of Psychology and Sociology at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. She is
an expert in sociology, with a focus on education, race, gender and
class.

Jeffrey Gottlieb PZ ’75 will receive this year’s
Distinguished Alumni Award, the highest honor Pitzer can award to a graduate. Gottlieb was a sociology major and basketball player while at
Pitzer and is currently an investigative reporter with the Los Angeles
Times.
He has received numerous awards, including the prestigious George Polk Award twice and most recently the 2011 Pulitzer Prize
for Public Service. 

“Winning the award from Pitzer, where I spent
some of my formative years, is an incredible honor,” Gottlieb said, according to an article about the Distinguished Alumni
Award published on Pitzer’s website. “Much of my view of the world was shaped at Pitzer and the award is
recognition that I’ve lived up to the goals of the College.”

Saturday afternoon, there will be a variety of
events to choose from, some of which focus on Pitzer’s early days. There will
be panel discussions about Pitzer’s early years and core values, and a luncheon
for early graduates and faculty. Harking back to Pitzer’s roots in the ’60s
and ’70s, one option offered in the afternoon is a T-shirt tie-dye clinic. 

These events and activities are all a prelude to
the big bash planned for Saturday night to celebrate Pitzer’s first 50 years
and look forward to its next half-century. Billed as Pitzer’s 50th Birthday Party,
the Orange & White Ball will not be, despite its name, a fancy-dress ball
or formal dinner dance, though there will be dinner and dancing.  

In true Pitzer spirit, guests are expected to dress
in orange and white and bring blankets for sitting on the Pitzer mounds in the
center of campus. At 6 p.m., the festivities begin with the “50Forward
Campaign” celebration and dedication, at which MarchFourth will perform its lively brand of music combined with acrobatics, stilt-walking, and other almost
circus-like acts. 

Dinner will follow on the mounds at 6:30 p.m.,
during which there will be further entertainment provided by students and
alumni. This precedes the main attraction at 9 p.m.: the Earth Wind & Fire performance. 

The Saturday evening festivities, including the
Orange & White Ball and concerts, are ticketed events open only to the
Pitzer community. Many of the earlier events, such as the PIF, panel
discussions and keynote address, are not as restricted.

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