On Feb. 29, Pomona College President David Oxtoby announced that he would step down from his position as president in June 2017. The decision followed the official conclusion in December 2015 of Pomona’s Daring Minds campaign, which raised over $307 million, the most of any Pomona fundraising campaign.
In an interview with TSL, Oxtoby said that he decided to resign in summer 2017 due not only to the conclusion of Daring Minds but also to the fact that Pomona’s current strategic plan will end in 2017 and that Pomona has a “really good senior team in place.”
Oxtoby said that he has been discussing the possibility of stepping down from the position with Samuel Glick PO ‘04, chair of Pomona’s Board of Trustees, for the last year.
According to Glick and Oxtoby, Oxtoby plans to continue work on his initiatives throughout the rest of his time at Pomona, especially on the four key areas of diversity, climate neutrality, the Sontag Center for Collaborative Creativity, and planning for Pomona’s new art museum.
To Oxtoby, this means working with the trustees to develop a more specific plan for reaching climate neutrality by 2030; moving forward with zoning regulations, fundraising, and design for the art museum; as well as identifying a founding director and initial staffing for the Sontag Center.
Diversity concerns will continue to be a primary focus for Oxtoby, who has been meeting with student groups and affinity groups to discuss their experiences and demands since the fall semester. Oxtoby said that he is hoping to “have a lot of new ideas and a couple new positions” related to diversity by the end of this year.
Daren Mooko, Pomona’s associate dean, Title IX coordinator & diversity officer, and a member of the President’s Advisory Committee on Diversity (PACD), said that one of PACD’s current priorities is seeing how the demands of students can be reconciled with Pomona’s strategic plan for diversity, Lighting the Path.
“My time with President Oxtoby, I have been thoroughly convinced that diversity has been among his top handful of priorities over the years,” Mooko said. “He doesn’t shout from the rooftops about it, he just does it, it just happens as a matter of the course of his work.”
Mooko added that he hopes Pomona’s next president will have an understanding and appreciation for Lighting the Path, which lasts until 2025. He also expressed the hope that PACD will have a role in the search process for the next president.
According to Glick, the Board of Trustees will release information about the makeup of the search committee and the form of the search process in the coming weeks, hopefully by the beginning of April. Glick said that he wants the search process to take into account “a broad range of input from students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents and other constituents.”
“A chance to pick a new leader gives us a chance to evaluate our relative priorities, because we have to think about what kind of leader we want, to take us where,” Glick said. “I fully expect that as part of the search process we will gather a lot of input on that topic and spend a good amount of time writing the position statement about who we want.”
Pamela Besnard, vice president for Advancement at Pomona, said that Oxtoby, who she described as the “fundraiser-in-chief” for the Daring Minds campaign, would leave “big shoes to fill” for the next president.
The Daring Minds campaign has helped fund financial aid, student internships, and student research, in addition to the construction of major buildings like Millikan Hall, the Studio Art hall, and the Pomona and Sontag residence halls, Besnard said.
Besnard said that she hopes the momentum from the campaign will continue as Pomona tries to meet some of its outstanding fundraising goals for areas like international initiatives and financial aid, which “always is a moving target.”
For his part, Oxtoby said that he is unsure of how he will spend his time after leaving Pomona.
“I’m not ready to completely retire and do nothing, but in terms of what type of positions I might look at, pretty flexible,” he said.
Besnard and Glick both praised Oxtoby for the impact he has had on the college during his nearly thirteen-year tenure as president. Glick said that Oxtoby has succeeded in making the profile of admitted students “simultaneously more selective and more diverse,” improving the quality of academic and co-curricular programming, and strengthening relationships among the colleges of the Claremont consortium.
Oxtoby agreed that increased diversity in the student body has been the biggest change during his time at Pomona.
“To me, the student body is quite different from what it was in 2003, and I think that’s a very positive change,” he said.