The trustees of Pitzer College, the youngest of Claremont’s undergraduate colleges, on Monday chose Laura Skandera Trombley, a Mark Twain scholar and top administrator at Iowa’s Coe College, as Pitzer’s new president.
Skandera Trombley, 41, who is Coe’s chief academic officer, will be named today as president-elect of Pitzer, a liberal arts school known as perhaps the most innovative of Claremont’s undergraduate colleges.
Founded in 1963, Pitzer has a progressive bent that emphasizes social responsibility and community involvement and allows students to design their own interdisciplinary majors focusing on social and behavioral sciences.
A Southern California native, Skandera Trombley said in a telephone interview Monday that she is happy to be returning to California and excited to have the opportunity to lead Pitzer, formerly a women’s college that began accepting male students in 1970.
“It’s such a great school and I think we can do a lot to raise its national profile,” she said.
“It has a truly unique mission in that it emphasizes personal development on the part of its students, with students having an enormous amount of latitude in choosing their courses.”
Skandera Trombley said she has some ideas about how to raise the academic profile of the school--which ranked in the second tier of four-year liberal arts colleges in the latest U.S. News & World Report listing--but preferred “to spring those on the faculty” after she arrives next summer.
She will succeed Marilyn Chapin Massey, who has been president for more than a decade.
Skandera Trombley said she also wants to build on Pitzer’s leadership training and increase the school’s endowment, which now stands at about $50 million. In April, Pitzer launched its first major fund-raising drive, aimed at raising $40 million, primarily for the endowment.
Susan Pritzker, chairwoman of Pitzer’s Board of Trustees, said Skandera Trombley’s experience with a successful fund-raising campaign at Coe would stand her in good stead in her new position.
In addition, Pritzker said, she “articulates a clear vision for Pitzer College’s future and demonstrates a remarkable resonance with Pitzer’s distinctive mission.”
Skandera Trombley, who has served as vice president for academic affairs at Coe since 1997, is president of the Mark Twain Circle of America, a national organization of academics specializing in Twain.
Her fourth book, and third on Twain, is due out next week.
She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English from Pepperdine University and her doctorate from USC.
She is married to Nelson Edmond Trombley, 54, an artist. The couple have one child.