Standing in the shadow of Kravis Center on a sunny April afternoon, Henry Poy ’50 P’90 GP’21 can only marvel at the dramatic transformation of campus since he graduated seven decades ago.
Though buildings may change, the heart of Henry’s CMC story remains visible as ever.
It’s right there in the face of his granddaughter, Annie ’21, who—together with Henry—form a unique bridge between CMC’s first-ever four-year Class of 1950 and the College’s most recent cohort of graduates in May.
CMC has served as a second family room to the Poys—grandfather/father Henry, husband-wife and parents Rob ’90 P’21 and Becky (Butler) ’88 P’21, and granddaughter/daughter Annie—offering a front row seat to decades of life-changing, life-shaping mentors, moments, and memories at the College.
This is where Henry gained maturity and life skills; for military service during the Korean War, a JD degree at UC Hastings College of Law, and a 58-year career in private practice.
Where Rob and Becky randomly met in a racquetball class and began their courtship while roaming campus to post movie flyers.
Where the family walked its guide dogs in training, attended ice cream socials, and drank wassail at Madrigal Feasts inside the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum.
And most recently, where all four returned—together—for the first time during an unpredictable pandemic to recount the ways CMC has remained an important fixture of their Claremont family life, starting with Henry’s arrival on campus in 1948, two years after the College’s historic founding.
Henry: “When I graduated from high school, I had a B-average. And anyone with a B at Berkeley High automatically got accepted into the University of California, Berkeley. I was raised there, and I liked being at home. But a year later, the college had become so crowded, with classes overflowing. It was not the college life that I envisioned.
“My 1938 Dodge Convertible brought me to Southern California to look at a few colleges. I ended up at Pomona and was told by the interviewer there that a new college was opening just north of campus, and I might be able to get immediate acceptance. He told me where to go, I knocked on the door, and an elderly gentleman came to greet me. We had an interview, he looked over my so-called credentials, and accepted me right away. It was only later that I learned that the person who interviewed me was Dr. George C.S. Benson.”
Becky: “Like Dad, Rob and I both had large school experience before CMC. Rob came from UC Berkeley, too. I was at UC Davis and UC Riverside. Big class sizes. Not much interaction with professors. So, to have teachers who knew you by name? Who cared about you and asked about you? That was a big change.”
Annie: “I was very shy when I started at CMC. I was not one to ask for help. If I was confused about something, I preferred struggling to figure it out on my own to seeking out resources that could help me understand it faster. But coming here, being in this environment that pushed me to be better without ever feeling overly competitive, really helped me step outside of my comfort zone.”
“I was not comfortable going to office hours during my freshman year. I had Professor (Nick) Warner for my Freshman Writing Seminar, and he repeatedly extended the invitation to come see him, even if we didn’t need help. To be personally invited really gave me the push I needed to confidently ask for course work help and life advice. I really appreciated that. My acceptance of that initial invitation ended up shaping my subsequent years, helping me become the much more self-assured individual that I am today. Now it is no longer a big deal to go to office hours, walk up to professors at Collins, or talk to strangers in the Stark elevator!”
Becky: “I remember coming here and knowing how important it was financially that I work. I went to the financial aid office and needed to figure out a plan for work study, so I had all of these questions. And by the time I left, I walked out with a job from them! They really cared about me. I’ll never forget the people that I worked with. Sure, the classes were a highlight during my time at CMC, but I’ll always remember that campus job and getting to know everyone in the admission and financial aid office. They were very special to me.”
Henry: “I personally enjoyed CMC because of the faculty. The student body at that time, half of them had been in the service. These were veterans who had seen life and death. I was 19. So, while we knew each other through classes, the difference in age and life experience had an impact on our social camaraderie in those earliest days.
“Really, professors were the ones who participated in our activities and went out of their way to know us on a first name basis. They were always available. Invited us to their home occasionally. We could talk about social and personal situations with them.”
Rob: “That strikes me most as what has continued to carry through to Annie’s time. At a smaller school like CMC, you could just see the desire from professors who have chosen to teach here. They really want to get to know students and have an impact on their lives. It was definitely true when Becky and I were students. Professor (Marc) Massoud. Professor (Ronald) Teeples. Professor (Gerald) Eyrich. All amazing people who influenced my life. Classmates often spoke of professors—John Roth, Jack Pitney, Ward Elliott, Gordon Bjork, and many more—in the same way.”
Henry: “It really was like a home. We respected the professors. They respected us. I remember one of my favorites, Professor Jacob Anton De Haas. He had a Dutch accent, a great sense of humor. He remembered your name, wanted to know if you were happy, if you had any concerns. You could just be walking on campus and a professor would tap you on the shoulder to talk, or share a funny joke. That made the school for me.”
Rob: “Before the days of email, if you missed a class because you overslept, you might get a note from a professor in your Story House mailbox: ‘Hey, missed you today. Hope you’re OK.’”
Becky: “I get the sense from Annie that it’s very similar today, the amount of care the faculty and staff have for students.”
Rob: “(President) Jack Stark would have some of his meals in Collins. We’d all point out Jack’s very nice sweater vest. Jil, the same thing—she was always walking around campus or at the Ath, and if you didn’t call to them, they would call to you. They were visible and approachable. I remember thinking, ‘What could be better?’”
Henry: “When I was at Cal, there were times when we would sit outside on the steps and listen to a loud speaker for class, never even being able to see the professor! You had to make an appointment to talk, and it might take them two months to get to you. By that time, you’d just forget the whole thing. What a difference.”
Rob: “We’re in the middle of Gann Quad like it’s our living room. And when we were in classes, it was like being in the teacher’s living room. They opened their homes. Treated us like peers. Those are the things that you look back on and say, ‘Wow, that was pretty special.”
Becky: “I met Rob in Ducey Gym, waiting for our racquetball instructor. We introduced ourselves and talked a bit. Throughout that semester, I saw him walking to class—which was up the street at the Claremont Club racquetball courts—with his friend, and I had a car, so I picked them up. The following semester, we started hanging out more.”
Rob: “We used to show movies on campus—Friday night at McKenna Auditorium and Saturday night at the School of Theology. It was for a CMC club, Playbill. I asked Becky to help me hang flyers on the campuses. And it gave us a chance to walk the 5Cs together.”
Becky: “When you walk the 5Cs every week, you really get to know someone.”
Rob: “You definitely have to have something to talk about!”
Annie: “I grew up coming to campus. We’d walk the dogs here almost every week. We attended CMC events. I was already so familiar with CMC when it came time to apply to colleges. I wasn’t sure what coming to school here would feel like after living in (the city of) Claremont for my entire life. It turned out that living on campus is actually a very different feeling from just visiting campus as a Claremont resident. I wasn’t expecting that. I thought it might feel just like being at home. But being in a community with people my own age, who are doing the same daily routine and dealing with the same problems that I am, revealed to me a different side of CMC.
“And, of course, having parental guidance nearby was a really helpful thing. They have been such a nice support system to have just a short ride away.”
Rob: “Sometimes we’d even stop by and have a meal with Annie in Collins.”
Annie: “I’m not good at using all of my flex dollars each semester. So, there were some family steak dinners at Harvey Mudd. Some taco dinners at Collins.”
Becky: “It was fun to see students wonder who the old people were with Annie in Collins. I’m grateful that we were, at least, alumni!”
Rob: “Hey, it was fun to be out of the house. To me, it was like date night.”
Annie: “I have a special spot for the CMC Alumni Association-hosted new student ice cream socials at The Hub that I grew up coming to as a child. I had my teeny tiny CMC apron. I remember wanting to know more about these fun college students, and they were so eloquent and easy to talk to.”
Becky: “I loved the Madrigal Feast at the Ath. We came many times before Annie was born, then with Annie, too. Those are great memories for us. We still use our Madrigal wassail mugs!”
Rob: “I’ve really valued my involvement with the Alumni Association, especially because it gave me a chance to work with alumni from across the CMC decades. I got to know people like Eugene Wolver ’51, others from my Dad’s time, and become friends. I even heard some stories that I didn’t hear directly from Dad.
“No matter the decade, I could sit down with alumni from any era and we could pick up a conversation about common experiences with faculty, meeting best friends, or staying in touch after. And we’d all know what we were talking about. It’s like a CMC DNA, this thing that carries on after us. And it really strikes me how special it is.”
Henry: “It really is amazing to look around and think about then and now. I started the Northern California chapter of the CMC Alumni Association in 1954. When I would get together with my classmates, we’d talk about our families and the changes we experienced in our lives. But the changes at CMC—just how respected it has become nationally and internationally—that is truly something. To visit campus nowadays, you see students from all walks of life, from all over the world.
“That, to me, is amazing. This little college in California. I’m very proud to be an alumnus.”