Pomona’s Family Weekend Features Notable Parent Speakers

Agnes Mok PO ’21 shares a meal with her parents at Pomona College Family Weekend on Marston Quad Feb. 17. (Alec Lei • The Student Life)

Pomona College hosted a series of speeches by notable parents of students as part of its family weekend Feb. 16. It featured the president of the Boston Bruins, a film studio executive, one of the prosecuting attorney in the infamous 1995 O.J. Simpson murder case, and the European Union’s special representative for human rights. Each speaker gave a short talk on ideas that ignite their “intellectual spark.”

Former NHL athlete and Boston Bruins President Cam Neely, parent of Jack Neely PO ’21, talked about resilience and adjustment to challenges, drawing primarily from his career as a professional hockey player turned hockey executive.

After being traded at age 21 to the Boston Bruins from the Vancouver Canucks, Neely played for 10 years in Boston, where his career took off.

“When you get traded, you think that team doesn’t want you, but my father was a very positive thinker and he got me thinking, ‘One team may have not wanted you, but think about the one that did want you,’” Neely said.

The Bruins retired his jersey number in 2004, and Neely was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame the following year.

Filmmaker Lauren Versel spoke next, discussing her career in Hollywood and the endurance required to be successful.

She described some of the obstacles she has faced as a woman in an industry with limited female representation.

“When I said I planned on directing at my first internship in film, I was told, ‘you can be a script supervisor or an editor. Editors are like cooking; you look in the fridge and see what’s there and make dinner,’” Versel said.

However, she persevered through the challenges — including once working as an editor under a blind director — and eventually found success through the creation of the Lucky Monkey Pictures production company with Maria Teresa Arida in 2002.

Attorney Christopher Darden, one of the prosecuting attorneys in the O.J. Simpson trial and parent of Chris Darden, Jr., PO ’20, chronicled his journey “rising above the court of public opinion” after being criticized by many in the media for his role in the trial.

“If you ever want to meet someone who’s been dragged through the press, had the most terrible things possible said about that person, I’m your guy,” Darden said.

Darden spoke about how he struggled under and eventually learned to deal with the intense media pressure and public scrutiny he faced throughout the trial.

“There were a lot of people that thought, ‘Hey, that guy didn’t do it,’” Darden said. “There was a racial divide in this country. And I was a black prosecutor in the agency that was prosecuting O.J. Simpson and I was a black man. So which side of the divide was I going to be on?”

Darden’s son wrote in a message to TSL that he hopes audience members were able to learn from his father’s experiences.

“Sometimes you have to do what you think is right, even if it goes against the status quo,” younger Darden wrote.

Stavros Lambrinidis, the European Union’s special representative for human rights, concluded the event by challenging common arguments against human rights.

“The first thing that people tell me around the world when they want to continue violating human rights is that human rights are a luxury,” Lambrinidis said. “The question really is, are human rights a luxury we cannot afford? And I answer that question with another question. The question I ask them is: ‘What’s so scary about smart girls?’”

Although the audience was significantly smaller than the one at last year’s family weekend presentation at Pomona by “Seinfeld” actor Jason Alexander, attendees seemed to enjoy themselves.

“I thought they were excellent,” said Lisette Chambers, whose daughter is a current junior at Pomona.

Chambers said Darden’s talk brought back memories of watching the O.J. trial play out on television.

“I decided to get cable because of the whole O.J. Simpson trial, so I was really engaged in the trial at the very beginning and had no idea [Darden] was speaking today,” Chambers said.

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