President Trombley to Take Sabbatical

In what
came as a surprise to some students, Pitzer College President Laura Skandera
Trombley announced Jan. 27 that she will take a sabbatical for the fall 2014
semester. This will be Trombley’s second semester-long sabbatical since becoming
Pitzer’s president in 2002. 

to Trombley, the original plan was to take time off several years ago, but she has
had to push back the date several times to accommodate a busy schedule. Her sabbatical
will come on the heels of the college’s 50th anniversary and the
“50Forward campaign,” an effort she is spearheading to raise $50 million for
the college’s endowment. Trombley said that after a long year of fundraising
and anniversary-related activities, the coming semester will be an appropriate
time for her to take a break.

“I think
it is a good idea to have an opportunity to think about work done to date and contemplate
future projects; to make sure that I am taking care of my health and wellness;
and also have a chance to have a break from the constant pressure—and
scheduling—of the president’s life,” Trombley said.

Students are not worried about the transition and the semester without Trombley.

“I don’t really think this is the type of change that is going to affect us,” Ben Wientraub PZ ’16 said. “The president isn’t really that involved in day-to-day student life.”

In an
email sent to Pitzer faculty, staff, and students, Trombley
said she will also be using the sabbatical to focus on writing her
sixth book, which will be about Mark Twain. As a
former English professor, she has devoted a large portion of her career to
researching Twain and has written many other books and publications about

“I want
to use Twain as an exemplar of class movement within the 19th
century and how that was reflected in his drinking habits,” she said about
her planned book. “He was an enthusiastic drinker of alcohol, and in the 19th
century we saw the rise of the cocktail … and America’s changing drinking habits
reflected class structure.”

“I wish her all the best with her book,” Lily Peterson PZ ’17 said. “We all know how much she loves Mark Twain!”

The Pitzer College Board of Directors approved Thomas Poon, a chemistry professor at
the Keck Science Department, to serve as acting president during the fall semester. Poon served as an associate dean and the senior associate dean of faculty at Pitzer from 2008 to 2013.

“I am
absolutely delighted and honored to be appointed by the Board of Trustees for
this position,” Poon said in an email to TSL

He wrote that although he already has strong working
relationships with many staff members and students, he is looking forward to “meeting
even more of the people who work to make Pitzer such a wonderful institution.”

Trombley said that she is working with Poon to ensure that the administrative
transition is as smooth as possible. She plans to hold regular phone meetings
with Poon to keep up-to-date on college affairs.

“I won’t
be far — I will still be living in Claremont in the President’s house,” she said. “As we did
last time, if there are any emergencies or anything I need to be available for,
I would be.”

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