Claremont Insider: Farewells

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


The obituary section of today's Los Angeles Times mentioned the passings of two noteworthy Claremonters.

The first was former Pomona College president David Alexander, who died on Sunday. Alexander ran the college from 1969 to 1991 and is generally credited with taking Pomona to the top ranks of the nations liberal arts colleges. Pomona College's website has a news release on Alexander's death. It quotes current Pomona president David Oxtoby:

According to David Oxtoby, current president of Pomona College, “David Alexander was a passionate supporter of the liberal arts college in America and served Pomona College with distinction, creativity and compassion. During his tenure as president, Pomona solidified its reputation as one of the nation’s premier liberal arts colleges. In finance, admissions, and national rankings, Pomona grew in excellence during David Alexander’s 22 years of leadership. His dedication, his high aspirations, and his moral integrity were at the core of his extraordinary contribution to making Pomona College what it is today.

“It’s hard to think of David without acknowledging his wife Catharine’s contributions to Pomona,” added Oxtoby. “Theirs was a true partnership, and the College has benefited enormously from her warm, wise and ever-gracious presence.”

During Alexander’s tenure, Pomona’s endowment increased from $24 million to $296 million; faculty grew from 130 to 156; and new construction added 15 major buildings to campus. The geographic and ethnic diversity of the student body increased dramatically as the college made the transition from a primarily regional institution to a national liberal arts college with the majority of its students from outside California. The year after his retirement and in recognition of his leadership and commitment to the campus community, Pomona College named its new administration building the David Alexander Hall of Administration in 1992.

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The LA Times also reported that Claremont ceramicist Rupert Deese died July 12. Deese was a graduate of Pomona College and later received an MFA from Claremont Graduate School. The Times noted that Deese at one time shared a studio in Padua Hills with fellow Claremont ceramicist Harrison Macintosh and was part of a circle of local artists that included the late woodworker Sam Maloof, and painters James Hueter and Karl Benjamin:
Deese created such functional yet decorative pieces as ashtrays and martini pitchers as well as bowls, vases and other stoneware for the home. The fired clay forms were usually finished with a soft matte glaze in natural colors. One of his cocktail pitchers with a deep blue sheen is in the permanent collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

"He made elegant vessel ceramics in functional forms that were very well suited to the modern California home," Bobbye Tigerman, assistant curator of decorative arts and design at the museum, said. "They fulfilled contemporary needs.... He was very much in touch with how Californians lived."

Deese's pieces also are in the collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the Mingei International Folk Art Museum in San Diego and many other museums, and have been exhibited at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas.