Pomona College Head to Retire


Peter Stanley, a historian who has served as president of Pomona College since 1991, announced Friday that he will retire next year from the prestigious liberal arts school.

Stanley, 62, said he chose to step down because he is reaching a natural break in his presidency as the college approaches the end of a five-year fund-raising campaign expected to collect $180 million.

“It just seems like the right time for the college to take a fresh look,” he said.


Before arriving at Pomona, a school in Claremont with 1,550 students, Stanley had already enjoyed a wide-ranging career. He began as an assistant professor of history at the University of Illinois, where he founded the Committee on Asian Studies. He then moved to Harvard University, serving as an associate professor and coordinator of the Henry Luce Program in American-East Asian History.

Stanley later was chief academic officer at Carleton College in Minnesota before heading the Ford Foundation’s education and culture program, the position he held immediately before taking the Pomona job.

Among his accomplishments at Pomona, Stanley cited the growth of the college’s endowment from $364 million to the current $1.1 billion. That level gives Pomona what the school describes as the highest endowment per student of any college in the country.

Stanley also cited Pomona’s continuing academic improvement. It is among the top schools in the country in the percentage of enrolling freshman who go on to graduate school: 90%. It also ranks high in the portion of graduates who later earn PhDs: 11%.

Meanwhile, Stanley said, the school’s faculty has become more diverse. The percentage of minority faculty members has risen from 14% in 1991 to 22% today, while the portion of faculty positions held by women has climbed from 33% to 40%.

Also, Stanley cited a new program in cognitive science, a new on-campus institute promoting understanding of East Asia and the United States, and the continuing renovation of the school’s science facilities.

Stewart R. Smith, an investment manager and lawyer who is chairman of the Pomona College Board of Trustees, said a search committee will be established later this spring to find a successor. Stanley’s retirement takes effect in June 2003.

The college, Smith said, “has never been in better shape.”

Smith said Stanley indicated he planned to hold the job for 10 years when hired in 1991, and that the board is pleased that “we actually got a couple of extra years out of him.”

Jake Oken-Berg, student body president, said Stanley’s “level of involvement and care for student issues has been exceptional.”

Oken-Berg said that early in his freshman year, when he was playing Frisbee with classmates, Stanley joined in. The Frisbee, Oken-Berg recalled, “didn’t go that far” but his willingness to try left an impression. “I don’t think there are too many presidents who would do that in their business suits.”

Following his retirement, Stanley, a pianist, plans “to read, write and recover my ability to make music.” He said he and his wife, Mary-Jane Stanley, a former teacher, have not decided where they will make their main residence but will continue to live at least part-time in Connecticut, where they have a home. Their daughter, Laura, attends Smith College in Massachusetts.