Oxtoby named ninth president of Pomona

By Molly Schranz

David Oxtoby, dean of the Physical Sciences Division and the William Rainey Harper Distinguished Service Professor of Chemistry, was appointed the ninth president of Pomona College on Monday.

Oxtoby will assume his new position on July 1.

“I felt it was a good match,” said Oxtoby, who has been teaching at University since 1975. “I’m certainly excited as well as nervous. Pomona is quite a bit smaller than the University of Chicago, but it is still a big responsibility.”

Pomona’s student body is less than a third the size of that of the College, yet Oxtoby notes that there are significant similarities between the two. “University of Chicago is a research university, but it has a college at its heart which it shares with Pomona–a great commitment to undergraduates,” he said.

Steward R. Smith, chairman of the Pomona College Board of Trustees, said in a press release that Oxtoby will bring both talent and experience to the presidency. “He is a leader of intelligence, integrity and vision,” Smith said. “He deeply understands, and eloquently articulates the essential role for liberal arts colleges in this new century.”

As dean of the Physical Sciences Division, Oxtoby was in charge of raising funds for the $200 million Interdivisional Research Building currently under construction, supervising a 150-person faculty, and helping to establish relationships between the Physical Sciences Division and the Toyota Technological Institute, on whose board of trustees he serves.

Despite his duties as dean, Oxtoby has continued to be a dedicated professor, winning the Quantrell award for excellence in undergraduate teaching, an honor given to four members of the faculty each year.

“I’ll miss teaching first-years general chemistry at 8:30 in the morning. I’ve enjoyed teaching students and meeting them,” Oxtoby said.

Oxtoby has a long career in research, having written over 165 articles dealing with light scattering, chemical reaction dynamics, phase transitions, and liquids. He has also co-authored two chemistry textbooks widely used at universities and is a member of numerous science societies, including the American Physical Society and the American Chemical Society.

Before becoming a dean, Oxtoby was the director of the University’s James Franck Institute.

Additionally, he has guest taught at many international universities including the University of Paris, the University of Bristol in Great Britain, and the University of Sydney in Australia.

Oxtoby will be moving with his wife, Claire, and three children to Claremont, California, east of Los Angeles.

The move is a return to the West Coast for Oxtoby, a native of Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania who received his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkley after graduating summa cum laude from Harvard University.

“I’m certainly looking forward to California. I’m excited about being so connected to Mexico and the Pacific Rim,” he said.

University Provost Richard Saller, a longtime colleague of Oxtoby’s, sees his departure as bittersweet. “I believe that this is a great opportunity for Dean Oxtoby, who we will miss,” Saller said.

Although he will be teaching three thousand miles away, Oxtoby is intent on maintaining close contact with Chicago, where he has worked for the past 27 years.

According to Oxtoby, the tie between Pomona and Chicago was established long before the announcement of his presidency. “This next year, Pomona is coming to U of C for the football game,” Oxtoby said of the recently established athletic competition between the two schools.

Oxtoby was chosen for the presidency from a competitive applicant pool of nearly two hundred. He will succeed Pomona’s current president, Peter W. Stanley, who is retiring after 12 years.

A new dean of the Physical Sciences Division has not yet been appointed. A faculty nominating committee will soon be selected for this purpose.