David W. Oxtoby

President, Pomona College


David Oxtoby became the ninth president of Pomona College in Claremont, Calif., in July 2003. An internationally-known physical chemist, he previously served as dean of the Division of Physical Sciences at the University of Chicago, where he was William Rainey Harper Distinguished Service Professor. At Pomona, he is also professor of chemistry, and annually teaches a course in environmental chemistry.

Under Oxtoby’s leadership, the college has launched initiatives in sustainability—including integrated academic and campus planning and an office of sustainability—completed three new academic buildings, and carried out renovations of several historic campus buildings. Pomona has maintained a commitment to meet 100% of students’ demonstrated financial need through scholarships and financial aid, and has replaced loans with grants in student-aid packages, in order to enhance low-income and under-represented students’ access to a Pomona education. In 2009, Pomona established the Draper Center for Community Partnerships, which includes a long-term commitment to the Pomona College Academy for Youth Success (PAYS), which serves historically under-represented high school students. The college has established a parents program and set records for Annual Fund giving three years in a row. In addition, Pomona has adopted a new General Education curriculum, added new departments of computer science and media studies, and has expanded the faculty, with particular emphasis on interdisciplinary programs such as neuroscience, environmental analysis, and media studies.

Oxtoby has been particularly supportive of the arts, leading efforts to increase resources, visibility, and capacity. These efforts have resulted in a revitalization of the Pomona College Museum of Art, a new faculty position in creative writing, the inclusion of arts programming and facilities in the college’s Strategic Plan, and a commitment to public art exemplified by the installation of Pomona alumnus James Turrell’s Skyspace, Dividing the Light, in 2007.

Born in Bryn Mawr, Pa., Oxtoby received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry and physics summa cum laude from Harvard University in 1972 and his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1975. He joined the faculty of the University of Chicago in 1977, rising through the ranks to become full professor in 1986. As a research chemist, he is author or co-author of numerous scientific articles on such subjects as light scattering, chemical-reaction dynamics and phase transitions. He has been invited as guest lecturer to conferences and institutions around the globe and is the co-author of two first-year chemistry textbooks. He has been a visiting professor at the University of Paris, the University of Bristol, and the University of Sydney. His work has been recognized through fellowships from the Guggenheim, Sloan, Dreyfus, von Humboldt, Danforth, and National Science foundations. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, as well as a member of the American Chemical Society.

Oxtoby serves as the chair for the Association of American Colleges and Universities, is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and currently serves on the Presidential Advisory Committee of the Research Corporation for Science Advancement, the Science Education Board for Howard Hughes Medical Center, and the boards of Toyota Technological Institute-Chicago, the Claremont University Consortium Board of Overseers, and Harvard University’s Board of Overseers.

Formerly, he was a member of the National Science Foundation’s Mathematics and Physical Science Advisory Committee and the Advisory Committee on Cyberinfrastructure, the board of Argonne National Laboratory, the board of the Consortium on Financing Higher Education (COFHE), and the boards of trustees of the Webb Schools and Bryn Mawr College. In 2009, he received an honorary degree from Lingnan University in Hong Kong and, in 2005, he received an honorary degree from Occidental College.

Oxtoby and his wife, Claire, have three children: Mary Christina (Vassar ’04), John (Harvard ’07), and Laura (Carleton ’08).