Pomona College was established as a coeducational institution in October 1887 by a group of Congregationalists who wanted to create “a college of a New England type” on the West Coast. Classes first began in a rented house in Pomona in September 1888. The following January, the school was moved to Claremont after a piece of land, with an unfinished hotel on it, was given to the college. The unfinished hotel would eventually become Sumner Hall and would house Admissions and the Office of Campus Life. Despite the move to Claremont, the school kept the name Pomona College, and graduated its first class of ten students in 1894.
Pomona has always believed in educational equity, and in 1904 it graduated Winston Dickson, who became one of the first African-American students in history to attend Harvard Law School. Like other Congregationalist-founded colleges (others include Harvard, Dartmouth, Middlebury, and Bowdoin) Pomona was given its own governing board, ensuring its independence. The board of trustees was originally composed of graduates of the selective East Coast schools that Pomona wished to emulate. In recognition of the college’s rapidly growing stature, Southern California’s first chapter of Phi Beta Kappa was established there in 1913.
By the mid-1920s, Pomona was quickly expanding, which led then-president James A. Blaisdell, to call for “a group of institutions divided into small colleges—somewhat of an Oxford type—around a library and other utilities which they would use in common.” This move allowed Pomona to keep its small, liberal arts-focused teaching while at the same time creating the resources of a larger research university. On Pomona’s 38th anniversary in 1925, the Claremont Colleges were incorporated. The Claremont Colleges continued to grow, and in 1997 the consortium reached its current status, with five undergraduate and 2 graduate institutions.
Pomona’s campus covers 140 acres in Claremont, CA. It includes 59 buildings, 12 of which are residence halls. The campus is bounded by First Street borders the campus to the south, Mills and Amherst Avenues to the east, Eighth Street to the north, and Harvard Avenue to the west. Pomona is divided into North Campus and South Campus, with Sixth Street running roughly through the middle. Many of the older buildings are in the Spanish Renaissance Revival and Mission Styles, and are only one or two stories in height. Later buildings have taken inspiration from these styles, with usually three or fewer stories and stucco walls. The architecture, along with the grassy quads and abundant trees, gives the college a country club atmosphere.
South Campus consists of mostly first-year and sophomore housing, as well as academic buildings for the social sciences and humanities. Some buildings of note include Harwood Court, a dorm built in 1921, Oldenborg Center, a foreign language housing option for sophomores, Sumner Hall, Pomona’s first building, Bridges Auditorium, used for concerts and speakers with a capacity of 2,500, Bridges Hall of Music, a concert hall built in 1915 with seating for 600, and Carnegie Building, which dates back to 1929 and houses the politics and economics departments.
Marston Quadrangle is located between Carnegie Building and Bridges Auditorium. Developed in 1923, it contains 101 trees, ranging from sycamores to redwoods, and helps further Pomona’s attempt at being “a college in a garden.” The Organic Farm, or simply, “the Farm,” is located in the southeastern corner of campus. Created by a group of sustainably-minded students on a piece of fallow campus land, the farm has been incorporated into the curriculum of the environmental analysis program at Pomona.
North Campus is similarly a mix of residential and academic buildings, the majority of which house the science departments, including the Richard C. Seaver Biology Building, built with environmentally friendly features. The Lincoln and Edmunds Buildings, completed in 2007 and also on North Campus, were the first in Claremont to be awarded a gold certification award from the US Green Building Council’s LEED Program.
Located on the south side of Sixth Street (but still considered North Campus) is the Smith Campus Center, which is home to the mailroom, the Coop student store, student government, and two restaurants. Administrative offices are located in Alexander Hall.
Also on the south side of Sixth Street, the Rains Center is the main athletic facility, with a fitness center, a gym, and locker rooms. Next to Rains are the Merritt Football Field, Alumni Baseball Field, and Haldeman Pool. Walker Beach and Wig Beach are two large, grassy recreational areas of the campus. Students are commonly seen playing volleyball, sunbathing, and studying on these fields throughout the year.
Pomona College is located in Claremont, CA, 35 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. The downtown area of Claremont is known as “the Village,” and is only a block away from campus. Offering a variety of shops and restaurants, the Village is currently expanding with the new “Village West,” which will house some new restaurants and a five-screen art cinema. Claremont is home to about 34,000 people, and it boasts pristine, tree-lined avenues and historic buildings. It is sometimes called “the City of Trees and PhDs.”
Pomona’s campus is also less than five miles south of the San Gabriel Mountains. Mount San Antonio (also known as Mount Baldy) is 14 miles north of campus and visible from much of it. The Mount Baldy Ski Lifts are a popular spot for students to ski and snowboard in the winter. On clear days, the Chino Hills are visible to the south and the San Bernardino Mountains to the east.
Los Angeles is a short drive away, and the city offers entertainment, jobs, internships, shopping, restaurants, beaches, and much more to students, many of whom have a car and will regularly go into the city. Being near Hollywood also gives entertainment-minded students a chance to start learning about the business and getting involved in it.
Joshua Tree National Park (or more familiarly, “J-Tree”) is only about an hour from campus. This expanse of desolate high desert is home to the beautiful Joshua tree made famous by Tom Wolfe in his book, The Right Stuff. Students go to J-Tree to hike, bike, and camp.
On a certain day each spring, students board a bus in the morning and are driven to a local ski resort where they ski and snowboard. After lunch, they are driven to an Orange County or Los Angeles County beach for the rest of the day. Snow and sand in a single day!
The number 47 has a bizarre and mystical status at Pomona. The exact reason is unknown, but the superstition surrounding the number seems to go back almost 50 years. It is even a tradition that has been endorsed by the college, as seen in Pomona College's official website's explanation of the "mystique of 47."
The Sagehen: Nobody seems to know for sure how Pomona got the Sagehen as its team name. Up until World War I, it was the Huns, but that naturally became unpopular. Many attribute the change from Hun to Hen as either convenient, or as a newspaper typo that somehow stuck. But whatever the reason, the Sagehens became Pomona’s official team and Cecil Sagehen shows up at major sporting events.
Death by Chocolate is a pre-finals splurge on chocolate in various forms including brownies, cakes, candies, and even a chocolate fountain, sponsored by the college.
Mufti is a secret group that canvasses campus with stickers and cryptic messages that they call “burgers.” Mufti literally means “out of uniform” or “undressed,” and the group has been active, on and off, since the late 1940s.
Once a year, in early winter, the administration dumps a bunch of “snow” (crushed block ice, actually) on Marston Quad. Snowball fights and wintry havoc ensue.
Walker Wall is a place for students to make themselves heard. Following the September 11th terrorist attacks, you could find out how Pomona students were feeling by walking along the wall. The evening of day one, it was covered with a uniform layer of black, in an expression of mourning.
Known as Senior Week, Pomona students rent houses at Mission Beach in San Diego the week between finals and graduation. It is a final social hurrah and a chance to kick back with your college buddies before everyone scatters across the country and around the world. Students who are not seniors may join the fun, but they usually must be willing to sleep on the floor.
John Cage (attended) is a world-famous experimental musician.
Vikram Chandra (1984) is writer famous for his novels and short stories.
Roy Disney (1951) is a former senior executive of the Walt Disney Company and nephew of Walt Disney.
Bill Keller (1970) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and executive editor for The New York Times.
Louis Menand (1973) is a prominent writer, academic, and cultural critic.
Lynda Obst (1972) is the producer of films such as Contact and Sleepless in Seattle.
Cruz Reynoso (1953) was the first Chicano to serve on the California Supreme Court
Myrlie Evers Williams (1968) is a former chair of the NAACP.
Pomona’s Sagehens participate with Pitzer College (another of the 5C’s) in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and the NCAA's Division III. Pitzer College joined forces with Pomona to form Pomona-Pitzer athletics in 1970.
Pomona has 19 varsity teams. Men’s sports include baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, soccer, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, and water polo. Women’s sports include basketball, cross country, lacrosse, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, volleyball, and water polo. The women’s water polo team finished seventh in the 2008 NCAA Tournament.
In addition to varsity sports, there are many popular club and intramural sports in which students across the 5C’s participate.
During World War I, Pomona’s original mascot—the Huns—became unpopular, so the school adopted the much less threatening Sagehen as its new mascot.
OTL--“On the Loose”--is a 5C outdoors club that sponsors more than 150 trips each year, with such activities as backpacking, rock climbing, skiing, and sailing.
One can enroll in up to 50 percent of their classes at the other Claremont colleges (Claremont-McKenna, Scripps, Pitzer, and Harvey Mudd.
About 25 % of students have cars on campus.
In Roman mythology, Pomona was the goddess of fruit trees, gardens, and orchards. One of the aspirations of Pomona College’s founding members was to make the school “a college in a garden.”
Since 1921, Pomona’s campus has been used to film a number of Hollywood movies and TV shows.
President Theodore Roosevelt helped plant a small tree on the Pomona campus. “Roosevelt Oak” lived for the next 70 years in front of Pearsons Hall.
For 19 straight years, Claremont has been a winner of the National Arbor Day Association's Tree City USA.
Pomona is a residential campus, and virtually all students live on campus for all four years in one of Pomona's 12 residence halls. Those who would like to live elsewhere must apply to do so.
All first-year students live on South Campus in the four dormitories along Bonita Avenue that are referred to as “freshman row.” Mudd-Blaisdell is Pomona's newest and largest residence hall, housing 280 students in singles and doubles in the only air-conditioned dormitory on Freshman Row. Harwood Court is the oldest dorm on South Campus, dating back to 1921. Wig Hall has mostly double rooms, and Lyon Court is the only all-freshman dormitory, and it houses 78 students, mostly in doubles.
Oldenborg Center is home to 140 students, the majority of whom are sophomores. Oldenborg residents live in language or special interest halls, and as a result, are expected to participate in the dorm’s extracurricular activities; there is a foreign language dining hall, which serves lunch during the week. Oldenborg is air-conditioned, which can make it popular on extra-hot days.
The Cottages are three substance-free housing units on the corner of College and Bonita, in the village. Students must fill out a special application to live in the Cottages.
The residence halls of North Campus are mostly for juniors and seniors. Smiley Hall is Pomona's oldest residence hall, built in 1908 with a capacity of just 60 students. The first two floors of Smiley are known as Unity Dorm, while the third is substance-free. Walker Hall is home to 112 students in singles and two-room doubles, and houses all first-year transfer students. Clark I has two five-person suites, as well as two-room doubles, and houses 116 students. Clark V can fit 95 students, and has singles and two-room doubles. Norton-Clark III is home to 120 students in singles and doubles. Finally, Lawry Court is home to 72 students. It is made up of three towers, each of which has three floors. Each floor contains eight single rooms around a lounge and bathroom.