Pomona Will Lose Two Longtime Professors

Longtime Pomona Professors Jerry Irish and Monique Saigal will be retiring at the end of this year.

Saigal, who teaches in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, has taught at Pomona since 1965. The daughter of an Auschwitz concentration camp survivor, she spent part of her childhood hiding from Nazis with the help of a family of European Catholics.

Saigal originally came to Pomona to teach French and Spanish. She is primarily known for her research on French heroines involved in the French resistance against Nazi occupation.

Saigal said she has loved her students, describing them as “unusually sharp, conscientious, and respectful.” She expressed gratitude toward her students for helping her to subtitle her interviews with women during a project on the French resistance, and toward the college for providing her with the support to carry out such projects.

“At Pomona, I felt I had a lot of freedom,” she said. “I was always able to get funds or hire students in the summer to do work with me.”

Romance languages major Cassia Denton PO ’11 said Saigal is “sympathetic to the needs of students.”

“Her teaching is challenging but she makes the material accessible and always makes sure every student gains from her class,” Denton said. She added that Saigal is a “cornerstone of the French department” whom colleagues come to whenever difficult, unanswered questions on a French topic arise in class.

Saigal also collaborated with students outside the classroom: last year she performed a popular French song at Oldenborg’s French cultural dinner. Saigal played guitar and exhibited her very impressive singing voice, according to students at the event.

In 1997, Professor Saigal won the Wig Distinguished Professor Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Jerry Irish, the John Knox McLean Professor of Religious Studies, will also retire after this semester.

Irish has been at Pomona for twenty-five years and served for seven years as academic dean before becoming a full-time professor in the religious studies department.

As academic dean, Irish was charged with increasing faculty diversity, which, along with increased diversity among the student body, has helped lead to “a much richer and more exciting teaching environment,” he said.

Irish also noted the increased involvement of the Claremont Consortium, particularly Claremont McKenna College, in the religious studies department since his arrival.

Irish said one of his most vivid memories as a member of the Pomona community came during a dispute between students and the administration over staff issues similar to the current Workers for Justice (WFJ) campaign. The dispute resulted in students occupying Alexander Hall, at which point Irish and two other professors helped orchestrate a negotiation between two students and then-President Peter Stanley. The experience helped affirm Irish’s belief that Pomona students “take the world very seriously, and want to make the world better than it was when they entered it.”

One student, Micah Berman PO ’13, called Irish an “inspiring” professor and lauded his ability to help students “feel included and…grow intellectually.”

Irish remarked that he had no grand plans for retirement, as his passion has always been teaching.

“I just love being here,” he laughed.

Ian Gallogly contributed reporting for this article.

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