Sontag, Longtime Pomona Philosophy Professor, Dies at 84

Fredrick E. Sontag, Professor of Philosophy at Pomona College, died Jun. 14 of congestive heart failure. Sontag, 84, began teaching at Pomona in 1952 and retired at the end of last semester, ending a career that spanned nearly six decades and included thousands of students.

Before coming to Pomona, Sontag earned a bachelor’s degree at Stanford University, and a master’s and doctorate from Yale University.

Outside of a sabbatical year at the Pontifical College of San Anselmo in Rome, Sontag spent his entire teaching career at Pomona. At the time of his retirement, he was the longest-serving faculty member in the college’s history.

An ambitious scholar with a particular interest in the philosophy of religion, Sontag was also an ordained minister noted for his open and supportive personality.

“He really, really, cared for students,” said Professor of Philosophy Stephen Erickson, Sontag’s former colleague. “Not just when they were at school, but after they became alumni as well.”

In addition to his academic responsibilities, Sontag advised the Kappa Delta fraternity and connected personally with generations of Sagehens.

“He was a great adviser for the [Kappa Deltas],” said Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum. “[He] supported the students and supported the college, and did so with great passion and vigor.”

Sontag was also a prolific writer, authoring over 30 books.

“[Sontag] had an enlarged sense of what philosophy could think about,” Erickson said. “He was really concerned about how philosophy related to religion and larger human existence.”

On a tribute page on the Pomona College website, former students and colleagues left over 10,000 words of memories, thank yous and goodbyes to honor Sontag’s memory. Many of the writers spoke of Sontag’s continued impact on their lives beyond the classroom, including a number of former students who had been married by him.

“What was amazing were his connections with students and alumni over such a long period,” said President David Oxtoby. “He had an amazing ability to remember people he had connected with in various ways.”

A memorial service in Sontag’s honor will be held Oct. 10 in Bridges Auditorium.

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