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Dr. Kamol Somvichian

Professor, pro-democracy activist

Longtime Claremont resident Dr. Kamol Somvichian died Wednesday, February 8 at the age of 80.

Dr. Somvichian was born to parents Phol and Chalual Somvichian on March 14, 1936 in Bangkok, Thailand. He met his wife Marielena Somvichian in New York in 1960. The couple married in 1961. 

Dr. Somvichian was an accomplished scholar, earning his bachelor’s degree from Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand, a master’s degree from New York University and a PhD from the University of London in England. Additionally, he received the Fulbright, Rockefeller and Woodrow Wilson Scholarships. 

Dr. Somvichian was active in Thai politics throughout his life, helping to lead pro-democracy student protests in the 1970s. He was later elected to the National Legislative Assembly and Parliament of Thailand as a member and deputy secretary general of the Prachathipat (Democratic) party. His political, professional and academic careers included stops in Bangkok, New York City, London, Madrid, Tokyo, Washington, DC, Hong Kong, Swarthmore College and Pomona College, among other destinations. 

Along the way, he and Marielena had their daughter Marisa while living in New York City and their son Whitty while in Bangkok. Since 1982, Kamol and Marielena raised their family in Claremont. Dr. Somvichian was a professor at both the University of La Verne and Pacific States University in Los Angeles for many years, receiving professor emeritus recognition at each institution, in 2012 and 2014, respectively.

Dr. Somvichian is survived by his wife Marielena, his daughter Marisa, his son Whitty, his sisters Yenchai Somvichian and Nongyow Thongtan and five grandchildren—Austa, Tristan, Marisela, Tomiko and Emiko.

Dr. Somvichian will be cremated in southern California and his ashes will be returned to his home, Thailand. A memorial service will be held Sunday, February 19 at 2:30 p.m. at Memory Garden Memorial Park and Mortuary, 455 W. Central Ave., Brea, California.