The University of Chicago News Office
Feb. 11, 2003 Press Contact: Larry Arbeiter
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Dean David Oxtoby named Pomona College’s ninth president

[david oxtoby]

Pomona College, one of the top-ranked colleges in the country, has named noted chemist David W. Oxtoby, dean of physical sciences at the University of Chicago, to be the ninth president in its 116-year history. Oxtoby was elected by the Pomona College Board of Trustees during a special meeting Monday. He will assume his new duties on July 1, succeeding President Peter W. Stanley, who will retire at the end of a 12-year tenure.

According to Stewart R. Smith, chairman of the Pomona College Board of Trustees and a 1968 graduate of the College, Oxtoby brings to the Pomona presidency a remarkable combination of talents and experience. “In David Oxtoby we have found a person who is, first of all, brilliant of mind and staggering in his scholarly credentials,” Smith said. “In the best tradition of a liberal arts education, he is also something of a Renaissance man-accomplished in French, German and Italian, knowledgeable about classical music and architecture, active in theater and athletics. Most importantly, he is a leader of intelligence, integrity and vision. He deeply understands, and eloquently articulates, the essential role for liberal arts colleges in this new century.”

Oxtoby, 51, said he was excited by the level of commitment he had found at Pomona. “Pomona is looking to the future in an open and positive way, ready to reinvent itself for the challenges of this new century,” he said. “I look forward to working with the faculty, students, staff, alumni, and trustees to strengthen connections to the greater Los Angeles area, to California, to Latin America, and to the entire Pacific Rim. As one of the premier liberal arts colleges in the United States, Pomona offers need-blind admissions to a stellar group of students, and has the responsibility to provide them with the very best education in the country.”

University of Chicago Provost Richard P. Saller said he believes that in Oxtoby, Pomona has made an excellent choice. “We will be very sorry to see him leave Chicago,” Saller said, “but his deanship will be remembered for some notable achievements in the physical sciences, including the planning and construction of our largest science facility, the Interdivisional Research Building, and establishing a relationship in computer science with the Toyota Technological Institute. David’s collegiality and good judgment will be missed.”

Oxtoby currently holds both faculty and administrative titles at the University of Chicago, serving as the William Rainey Harper Distinguished Service Professor and as dean of the Division of Physical Sciences. As dean, he recently took a lead role in planning and raising funds for the University’s new, $200 million laboratory building. Yet despite the demands of overseeing a faculty of 150 and a budget of about $50 million, Oxtoby has remained committed to teaching both basic and advanced courses, including an undergraduate class in general chemistry as recently as last fall. He is a past recipient of the Quantrell teaching award, presented to only four of the University of Chicago’s 600 faculty members each year.

Since first joining the University of Chicago faculty in 1975, Oxtoby has been associated with the institution off and on for nearly three decades, with brief interludes to serve as a visiting professor at such places as the University of Paris; the University of Bristol in Great Britain; and the University of Sydney in Australia. Prior to assuming his current position as dean, he also served the University of Chicago for three years as director of its James Franck Institute.

As a research chemist, he is author or co-author of more than 165 scientific articles on such subjects as light scattering, chemical reaction dynamics, phase transitions and liquids. He has been invited as a guest lecturer at conferences and institutions around the globe. He also co-authored two nationally popular textbooks in chemistry, “Principles of Modern Chemistry,” (with H. Pat Gillis) now in its fifth edition and in use at institutions across the country; and “Chemistry: Science of Change,” (with Wade Freeman and Toby Block) which is now in its fourth edition and has been translated into Italian and Korean. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim, von Humboldt, Dreyfus, Sloan, Danforth and National Science foundations.

He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and a member of the American Chemical Society, the Materials Research Society, the Royal Society of Chemistry (Great Britain) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Oxtoby is a long-time member of the Board of Trustees of Bryn Mawr College in his childhood hometown of Bryn Mawr, Penn., currently serving as vice chair. He is also a member of the boards of trustees of the Toyota Technological Institute of Chicago and the Chicago Teachers Academy of Mathematics and Science, as well as the Astrophysical Research Consortium Board and the Board of Governors of the Consortium for Advanced Radiation Sources.

After earning his bachelor’s degree, summa cum laude, from Harvard University, he went on to earn his Ph.D. on the opposite coast, at the University of California, Berkeley.

Oxtoby and his wife, Claire, are the parents of three children.

Oxtoby’s appointment concluded a nine-month nationwide search that began in May 2002, when Stanley announced his intention to retire at the end of the 2002-03 academic year. Smith said the search attracted a highly qualified field of approximately 200 candidates who were carefully screened by a search committee including trustees, alumni and faculty, as well as representatives of the staff and the student body.

“During the 12 years of Peter Stanley’s presidency, Pomona has reached new heights of excellence in virtually all of its endeavors and has even more clearly emerged, solid and accessible, as one of the nation’s preeminent residential liberal arts colleges,” Smith, the Pomona Board chair, said. “In David Oxtoby, we have found a worthy successor who believes devoutly in the benefits of the liberal arts and the responsibility of a college like Pomona to be a leader among liberal arts colleges nationwide.”

Pomona College, founded in 1887, provides its students with a challenging curriculum in the humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and fine arts and an unsurpassed environment for intellectual inquiry and growth. Among its hallmarks are its small classes, close relationships between students and faculty, and student research opportunities. Located in Claremont, California, just east of Los Angeles, the residential College is home to about 1,500 students.
Last modified at 05:06 PM CST on Monday, April 14, 2003.

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