Construction of Sontag Hall Formally Begins

Pomona students, administrators, and guests gathered on Saturday for the ceremonial ground-breaking of Sontag Hall, one of two new residence halls currently under construction on campus. Scheduled for completion in Spring 2011, the dormitory will house 150 students and will promote environmental sustainability.Speakers included President David Oxtoby, Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum, and Rick Sontag HM ’64, trustee of Harvey Mudd College, who, along with his wife Susan PO ’64, donated $7.5 million to fund the construction of the dormitory.“It’s hard to describe the gratitude of the Pomona family—trustees, faculty, students, staff, parents—to Rick and Susan Sontag and their family for the lead gift that will make Sontag Hall a reality,” Oxtoby said.The dorm is dedicated to the late Professor of Philosophy Frederick E. Sontag, who was a member of the Pomona faculty for 57 years and who passed away last June.“A dormitory … is a lasting part of the campus; but moreover, it’s a really fitting tribute to my uncle Fred,” said Rick Sontag, explaining the motivation behind their donation. “The one thing that he wanted most of all was for students to interact and get a full college experience.”Anne Sontag Karch, Professor Sontag’s daughter, speculated on how her father would have reacted to the honor.“Dad was interested—no, he was invested—in student life at Pomona,” she said. “He would have liked the suite-like arrangements of the student rooms, the common gathering spaces, the rooftop garden, and the grassy area in front—all places where students can gather, relax, or recreate, chat or debate. He would have been delighted.”The residence hall will be built in accordance with the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold standards, featuring solar panels to provide heating and temperature and outlet controls to reduce energy waste.“The dorm … should be for every student, and it should teach them about how to live sustainably, so that when they get out into the real world, they can carry out those practices,” said Katarina Hicks PO ’10, who serves on the Residence Hall Planning Committee.Student speakers and administrators reiterated the importance of student input in the process, explaining the college’s efforts to satisfy the needs and preferences of the student body.“The big question that governed every single step of the design process was, ‘Will this make student life better?’” said Derek Schaible PO ’11, who is also a member of the committee.He recounted long discussions that took place over the minutest features of the dorm, from the color of the walls—the committee ultimately decided on “Swiss Coffee”—to the material for its countertops.Using the shovel with which President Theodore Roosevelt planted an oak tree outside of Pearson Hall in 1903, Rick Sontag performed the ceremonial ground-breaking for the dormitory along with family members.“As everyone can see, there is already a substantial hole in the ground, so our task today with the shovels is a little more symbolic than practical,” Oxtoby admitted.

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