Community Gathers to Remember Professor Fred Sontag

Pomona’s Bridges Hall of Music hosted a memorial service for former Professor of Philosophy and Kappa Delta Fraternity advisorFrederick Earl SontagSaturday.Sontag, who recently retired from Pomona after 57 years of service, died June 14. He was 84.Grant F. Sontag, the late professor’s son, was the first to take the podium at the memorial service. In his speech, Grant discussed the difficulties he had with the amount of time his father spent at the school.“Being at Pomona wasn’t just dad’s job; it was his life,” Grant said. “He spent so much time at the college and with the students, that at one point in my teens, I blurted out, ‘I’d rather be your student than your son.’”Recalling memories of his father with tears in his eyes, Grant then spoke about the difficulties his father had to overcome as a child.“What must have it been like to grow up in a household where your only memory of your mother is of being held up at age three and a half to look down upon her body lying in a casket?” Grant asked. “And, what it must have been like to lose your father, at age 14, just when you needed him the most? The amazing thing to me is not just that dad survived all this, but that he succeeded as well as he did when others, with greater fortune, would end up failing.”The next speaker was A. Redmond Doms PO ’62, current Pomona trustee and Kappa Delta alumnus. Doms spoke about Sontag’s contributions as the advisor to Kappa Delta.“Do you know that Fred attended over 1,000 KD fraternity meetings…and over 250 KD parties,” Doms asked.In addition to attending meetings and parties, Doms said Sontag was always the first person to help a Kappa Delta brother if he got himself into trouble.“He spent so much time at police stations, attorney offices and Pomona’s judiciary committee representing ‘these wonderful boys’ as he called us,” Doms said.In addition to Sontag’s work with Kappa Delta, Doms also noted the many contributions Sontag made to the school and its neighboring communities. As an ordained minister, Sontag married over 100 couples during his tenure at Pomona.“He touched all of our lives—some in small ways, some in large ways. He gave us a sense of who we are, a sense of forgiveness. He was always there for you,” Doms said.David Held, a pastor for the Claremont United Church of Christ, spoke about Sontag’s contributions to the religious community at Pomona.“As well as being a brilliant scholar and beloved teacher, [Sontag] was a devoted church member who would carry on Pomona College’s early close relation with the Claremont church.”Held also spoke about ordaining Sontag as a pastor.“Although he understood his role as primarily academic, he chose to combine it with a caring pastoral role,” Held said. “His theological statement was the best I’ve ever heard.”The final speaker was one of Sontag’s former students, John K. Roth PO ’62, who spoke at length about Sontag’s academic achievements.“Loving husband, father, grandfather and uncle, speech teacher and loyal friend—Fred was many persons in one. We each have our own version of him, but our descriptions would be incomplete if they overlooked that he was a scholar, a philosopher and a writer,” Roth said.Roth also noted that Sontag authored more than 30 books and that his philosophical articles numbered in the high-hundreds.“We are immensely grateful that Fred was, and is, with us; that his family allowed him to be with his students and friends as well as with them,” Roth said. “We should also give thanks that Fred was a scholar, a philosopher, a writer, a person who took time to be by himself. Where, in private places, he read insightfully, thought deeply and wrote passionately about that which is most important for us to know, value, and love.”In addition to the service, Kappa Delta also held three events this weekend to honor their late advisor, including a meet and greet in Dom’s Lounge on last Friday, brunch in the Frank Blue Room the following morning, and a private party in the Sontag Greek Theater later that night.Kevin Yamazaki PO ’10, a current Kappa Delta member who helped organize these events, said they “were great arenas for the KD guys to really get emotional, and say what they wanted to to honor Fred. It was a great weekend, and just one more thing the KDs have to thank Fred for.”

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