Login to Claremont COURIER

Trombley resigns as president of Pitzer College

After more than 12 years, Laura Skandera Trombley will step down as president of Pitzer College on June 30, 2015, according to a press release from the college. Ms. Trombley has been named the president of The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens.

“Pitzer is fortunate to have benefitted from President Trombley’s distinctive leadership and vision, as she shepherded the college through its 50th year,” Shahan Soghikian, chair of the Pitzer College Board of Trustees, said in the announcement. “She leaves an institution sound in its finances and soaring in its accomplishments—one with which we all share a proud association.”

Ms. Trombley joined Pitzer in 2002, making her the college’s fifth and longest-serving president. Under her leadership, Pitzer rose dramatically in national rankings, moving from #70 in 2004 to #35 in US News and World Report’s list of top colleges. Pitzer has been the leader in student Fulbright Fellowships per 1,000 students for 10 of the last 11 years and the top producer of Fulbright awardees among US liberal arts colleges for the last four years.

“I am proud that Pitzer College has taken its place among America’s finest liberal arts colleges without compromising its ideals and values but, instead, by more tightly adhering to the intentions of its founding family and faculty,” Ms. Trombley said.

In February 2013, President Barack Obama appointed Ms. Trombley to the 12-member J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, as reported in the COURIER.

Ms. Trombley led three fundraising campaigns, raising more than $110 million and increasing the college’s endowment to an all-time high, according to Pitzer’s press release. During her tenure, the amount of financial aid awarded increased significantly, and the college constructed eight mixed-use residential buildings that earned either LEED Platinum or Gold certification.

A professor of English and world literature, Ms. Trombley team-taught classes at Pitzer and continued her scholarly research, publishing her fifth book, Mark Twain’s Other Woman, in 2010, an endeavor she said took nearly two decades.

“It’s embarrassing, embarrassing, that it took such a long time—16 years in total,” Ms. Trombley said of the writing process in a previous interview with the COURIER. She went on to say she wrote most of the book between 5:30 and 6:30 a.m. every day, which, “Trust me,” she said, “is not my favorite time of day to do anything.”

Mr. Twain, by her account, was a genius and possessed what she described as an “unbelievable energy level and intellectual curiosity,” descriptors one could easily apply to Ms. Trombley’s various pursuits in academia, fundraising and writing.

“I think there are some commonalities. We’re both redheads,” she joked in a 2010 COURIER interview. “And, I come from a family where humor is high valued and practiced by all family members. Certainly, a love of reading was inculcated in me at a very, very young age, and people who know me would describe me as having a fairly high-energy kind of personality.”

Ms. Trombley will complete the current academic year at Pitzer. The board of trustees has appointed Thomas Poon as interim president, effective July 1, 2015. Mr. Poon, Pitzer professor of chemistry and former associate dean of faculty, is serving as acting president during Ms. Trombley’s fall semester sabbatical. He will act as special assistant to the president during the spring semester, working closely with Ms. Trombley on all aspects of the transition.

The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens is a collections-based educational and research institution in San Marino and one of America’s major funders of advanced research in the humanities. Ms. Trombley will become the Huntington’s eighth president, and the first woman to lead the institution, in July 2015.