We greatly appreciate your whimsical anecdotes and inside jokes, your formative experiences and heartfelt appreciations, your willingness to share a small piece of the CMC story that matters to you. Through the good times, the hard times, and the carefree, fun times (maybe too much fun, for some), you have kept the College going through all that you do, and all that you give back.
Here’s a small sample of what alumni shared with us for the 75th. In addition to the full publication of the magazine in July, we’ll be sharing Class Notes excerpts from various years on our anniversary website.
CLASS OF 1957
‘What is Liberty?’ was the question given to us one Saturday morning in a government class by Gerald Jordan (several classmates had slept in). A few eager beavers up front raised their hands, and Jordan took them on one by one, demolishing each. I sat in back, trying not to laugh so I would not be called. I had read about the ‘Socratic method,’ but had never seen it in real-life action. Being a maverick myself, I was hooked, and it was stamped on my mind for the rest of my personal and professional life. I would also practice it in succeeding years on the fledgling CMC Debate Club. I took all of Jordan’s classes and marveled at his intellectual acumen, dispassionate demeanor, and probing inquiry. It also brought me to a life in academia, where I thought I could fit.
Then there was Golo Mann, one of the most wonderful professors I ever met. His sense of history was different from our other Humanities professors. He envisioned history from the bottom up, not from the top down, which appealed to my working-class background. History was the life of society—and of all the different people who comprised it and served as the background and context of major events. He was also disarming, belying his background in the German underground, the Swiss and U.S. armies, Allied intelligence, reporter on the Nuremburg trials, and poet-author-correspondent. He held late afternoon sessions in his largely furniture-bare home with wine and conversation. I related well to this person who was also a workaholic, had a similar enjoyment of culture, hiking (he with a bad knee), and his own and my grandparents’ origins in Bohemia.
Golo also kindled my desire to become a historian. He left Claremont in our last year to write what would become the best history of modern Germany. This left me with a conundrum for my senior thesis, resolved by merging history with law and ending up with Gerald as my thesis advisor. I spent months in the Honnold Library researching the history of the writ of self-incrimination in English and U.S. law. In the end it was Gerald who convinced me to unite the two and become a legal historian—which was unusual in those years. Personally, and professionally, thanks to them, I have never looked back.
CLASS OF 1967
I came to CMC sight unseen having taken a train from Seattle and a bus out of L.A. The bus let me off near Pomona College and I huffed it over to McKenna Auditorium carrying two heavy suitcases. I made my decision to come to CMC because I was sick of the Seattle rain. When I saw the inside cover of the CMC catalog with a photo of Dr. C.L. Payne outside, teaching a class with kids wearing shorts, T-shirts, and sandals, I said to myself, ‘That’s where I want to go to college.’ I never looked back, and those four years were some of the happiest of my life with many fond memories.
After a faulty start as an Economics and Political Science major, I became a Comparative Literature major. I believe I hold the distinction of being the very first student to tackle this brand-new field at CMC. It was hard reading all of those books and writing essay after essay after essay. Dr. Payne became my advisor and took a personal interest in me. I would not have graduated without him. At graduation, I gave him a desk set engraved: ‘Thanks for the Payneful Experiences.’
I was also raised in a military family. My grandfather, father, and brother all attended West Point. I had enough of Army life. I attended 13 elementary schools and four high schools. I had never stayed in one place longer than three years until I came to Claremont. I loved it—the school, my classes, my dorm, Scripps students, and more. But the Vietnam War was starting to escalate, and 18-year-olds were being drafted every day, so ROTC was an easy choice and second nature.
After graduation came the Army. I was feeling very cocky at 21 years of age, so I volunteered for Infantry, Airborne, Ranger School, and the 82nd Airborne Division. I got everything I asked for—and more. After training at Ft. Benning, Georgia, I jumped out of airplanes and helicopters at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina with the 82nd. Then it was off to Vietnam where I was an Infantry Platoon Leader leading 28 men through the jungle in I Corps along the DMZ with the 1st Cav Division.
My CMC education and leadership training did not prepare me for the experience of war. Nothing could. But my happy CMC memories became a warm and safe refuge in my mind that I often retreated to after times of stress, fear, and violence.
If you meet a Vietnam veteran like me, one friendly request: Please do not say ‘Thank you for your service.’ Rather, say, ‘Welcome home.’ That is so meaningful to us as veterans.
CLASS OF 1973
When I first read the request for memories and thoughts about CMC, I began recalling funny incidents and stories, most of which would be deemed ‘inappropriate’ in polite society. Then I recalled incidents and stories that were, perhaps, somewhat less humorous but certainly more compelling. After a while, I recognized there was no simple answer or single story that could encompass the breadth of the subject. It became obvious that there was no way in which my life had not been altered for the better by my time at CMC.
For myself, I learned life at CMC. I learned who I was and how I related to others. I learned there were people everywhere who I could learn skills from and that every person, no matter how otherwise incomprehensible to me, seemingly superior or obviously different, held a valuable lesson for me.
I learned that life is a series of complex problems to be solved, that there are limited resources of time and energy available to each of us, and that our choices as to allocation of those resources determines who we, and others, perceive us to be.
I learned that we can’t control the world around us, much as we might feel a need to, but we can control our responses to that world. I learned that failure is just another form of success, another step on the path to resolution, if you allow yourself to learn from it. I learned that we must each learn to forgive ourselves, if we ever hope to not repeat our errors. I learned that I am responsible for my world, every aspect of it. I learned that people are kind, if you let them be. I learned that the unobtainable is only so if you decide that it is so. I learned that all complex things are made up of simple parts. And I learned that life is far too important and interesting to be taken seriously.
I experienced so much more at CMC than I had ever conceived I might. And, of course, there are those stories—those things that make up a life, that happened at CMC that I had never before been exposed to and likely would never have done or seen were it not for that special place. Some were funny, most were inflection points. I could not possibly have become who I am today without them.
And, finally, and perhaps most importantly for this exercise, I learned at CMC that all of the rules of writing, grammar, and punctuation were ultimately social conventions and tools subject to the author’s whim to utilize or reject. A valuable life lesson indeed!
CLASS OF 1974
In the early ’70s when CMC was still Claremont Men’s College, one of the biggest issues pushed by the student body was having co-ed housing on campus (that is, official, school sanctioned co-ed housing).
One evening in the spring of 1974, the administration convened a meeting at the Athenaeum (then situated at the old President’s House) that consisted of students (with apologies to those I leave out … or to those I mention that were not actually there: my fading memory recalls Tim Donahoe, Jeff Hudson, Eric Hansen, Steve Golan, David Roth, Mario Mainero ’75, Brandy Birtcher ’76, and Jeff Taylor), CMC Board members (COB Jon Lovelace and others) and administrators Jack Stark ’57 GP’11, Deans MacLeod, Gray, and O’Neill, among others to discuss the issue.
The students made an impassioned argument. By the end of the evening, as we students met standing in a circle as a group, we felt we had been heard. That is, until we noticed that Jeff Taylor’s fly had been unzipped (God knows for how long) and the tail of his bright red dress shirt was hanging out of his pants. Co-ed housing? Hmmm. Perhaps that evening the CMC leadership noticed the “red flag,” and concluded that co-ed housing was not the best solution, and a spark was lit that led to the initial consideration for CMC ultimately going co-ed.
It’s an interesting theory, no?
CLASS OF 1984
I have so many special memories, but now that I’ve had one son finish college and another who is in his junior year, I have come to appreciate even more all of the many ways CMC challenged me to learn and grow.
I traveled back to CMC a few years ago when my youngest son was looking at schools. I had the great opportunity to see Torrey Sun and Professor Nick Warner. Professor Warner and I shared a memory of the time when I asked him about grad school, and he asked me ‘do you have a passion for it?’ Though it was a simple question, I recall leaving his office a bit off-kilter. It was his support as a mentor that helped me really think about what I wanted to do (and perhaps what I didn’t want to do)—spoiler here, I did not become an English professor. But I often ask myself (and others) that same question! Moments like these were what made our educational experience so special. It was the value placed not just on studies and grades, but on helping us navigate young adulthood.
CLASS OF 2001
The Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum, affectionately nicknamed The Ath, is a place with special significance for me. Throughout my entire four years at CMC, I spent countless hours inside the original ’80s building as though it were my own home. I remember visiting the Athenaeum for the first time in 1996 to hear the American author Richard Rodriguez. Although I’ve heard countless speakers over the years, including my own father on the topic of culture and mental health, the memories I cherish most had nothing to do with the speakers. In fact, I felt somewhat out of place amidst the cluster of students wearing identical outfits of khakis and navy blazers, the quiet murmurs of conversation, and polite clinks of china. Rather, the Ath was my second home because of the crescendo in the kitchen, the culinary repertoire of Chef Dave Skinner, and the friendships I made while working there.
Not only did I learn how to crack an egg with one hand and properly set a table, but I deepened friendships during brief interludes of hot chocolate service and late nights of folding maroon napkins. My friendships with Brian, Hillary, and Jacob grew while we watched countless episodes of Friends, passed kissing oranges during Madrigal, and heard snippets of wisdom from each speaker.
CLASS OF 2019
It’s no secret that the CMC community is vibrant, but sometimes it’s easy to forget just how incredible it is. The other day, I was speaking with my parents, and they reminded me how I used to leave extra early for lectures in anticipation of all the conversations that would arise with peers as I made my way to the classroom. I would also try to use the quick commutes to give my folks a brief ‘hello,’ letting them know I survived TNC, made it back from Joshua Tree, or narrowly avoided having to retake Accounting 086. But only recently did they tell me how frustrating those calls were on their end, as I was repeatedly pausing our conversation to catch up with friends. My parents now joke, ‘It was always good to hear your voice, even if it was just you saying ‘hey, what’s good?’ to your peers.’ But it’s during times like this pandemic, when social circles are limited and spontaneous interactions are infrequent, that I realize how special the opportunity to easily engage with CMCers truly was. I miss randomly seeing all of your faces and can’t wait for the next encounter!