Campus Events

Ella Fitzgerald_Ayer 1963.jpg

On October 5, 1962, the Junior Class presented in concert America's "first lady of song" Miss Ella Fitzgerald. Promoted by Fred Lazarus IV ’64, the concert was given in Bridges Auditorium before a crowd of about 2,000 people.

“Ella in Vegas, and Claremont, Too” 

Las Vegas was a different place back in the day. We used to leave for the Vegas on Saturday, stay one night–mostly because we couldn’t afford a second–and come back Sunday. You could go to bars, listen to free jazz, and eat cheaply; they even offered free drinks, mostly to try to get you to gamble. If you didn’t gamble, Vegas was a lot cheaper. Groups would often go to Vegas on the weekend and split the room, mattress, and floor, that way you could stay at nice motels. My friend and I went down there for one of these weekend trips, not for any particular reason, and happened to see that Ella Fitzgerald was performing that Saturday night. We ended up going. Ella was near the prime of her career, and her voice was amazing. As soon as we got back to Claremont, we talked to the woman who ran Big Bridges at Pomona and asked what it’d take to bring Ella Fitzgerald to the auditorium. She said, “If you want to do it, do it.” I’d never done a concert event in my life, but the woman who ran Bridges was caring and wonderfully supportive in walking us through the whole process. We had a contract that we had to negotiate and sign, and amazingly enough, they took our signatures.  

In hindsight, I can’t imagine allowing students to do this. We were a couple of kids, not even 21, signing a contract to bring a major artist to campus, and no one mentioned responsibility of liability. Maybe the world was less strung up back then, or maybe it was just a small college empowering its students. Being that this was the first entrepreneurial venture for my friend and me, we were terrified. Ella’s fee was $5,000, a lot of money back then. My friend and I had to go out on a limb to cover the cost of the hall because we didn’t have that kind of cash. We did everything in the world to sell those tickets. In the end, the concert was a financial loss; we came up short about $20. But for the price of bringing Ella to Claremont, meeting her in person, and having a wonderful experience, it was a gamble worth taking. 

- Fred Lazarus IV ’64


Green Hall residents and CMC faculty and staff gather at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the “Little Miss Smiles” fundraising event.

“Little Miss Smiles” 

When I arrived in Green Hall, our dorm president, Bob Walker ’64, read an article in the newspaper about an abandoned child nicknamed “Little Miss Smiles” for her radiant smile. It was decided that our dorm should do a community project to help her. Green was on board with a “let’s do this, let’s figure out what to do” mentality. Our fundraising idea was to ride a bicycle for 24 hours a day for a whole week straight. A local bike shop donated a bike equipped with a box on the back for donations. We took turns riding the bike for an hour each, riding it in circles around Honnold Library. There was news coverage about it, people donated money, and by the end of the week, we raised nearly $2,000. 

 - Brian Barnard ‘66 


CMC students hold signs in protest of the network’s passing out pre-made signage in an attempt to “enhance” their protesting of the bombing of Cambodia.

“Protest within a Protest”

During the Vietnam War era, CMC wasn’t the most politically active campus in the country by any means. However, news of the bombing in Cambodia in 1969 caused great turmoil on college campuses nationwide, including at CMC. One of the major news organizations had gotten word that we were going to protest the bombing. Apparently, they didn’t think we were capable of such a feat: When they came to film, the news teams brought pre-made protest posters, in case we didn’t have any. Well, CMC students didn’t take very kindly to whoever had the audacity to suggest that we couldn’t run our own protest. We showed just how good we were at creating posters by quickly whipping up some new ones–complete with slogans protesting not the Cambodian bombing, but superficial motives of the news organization.

- Neil Yeager ’70


A group of student protesters gather in front of Honnold Library during Ronald Reagan's campaign rally at the Claremont Colleges.

“Stop Me before I Kill Again” 

The presidential election campaign was in full swing in the fall of 1980, with Ronald Reagan challenging Jimmy Carter’s bid for re-election. (You can guess which candidate most CMC students supported.) That September, Reagan made a huge gaffe in some off-the-cuff remarks about repealing the Clean Air Act. He said that Southern California’s smog was a naturally occurring haze caused by emission from, among other things, trees. Yes: Reagan said trees cause smog. It was a disaster that needed fixing quickly, and CMC was just the sort of friendly place for Reagan to spin the gaffe into gold.  

Through the Rose Institute, I had been lucky to get an internship at the Reagan campaign’s Southern California headquarters. Our team quickly planned a live event, with Reagan booked to speak in the center of Mudd Quadrangle. CMC was going to be at the white-hot center of national politics, and I was given the task of organizing everything on campus–including recruiting friendly students to come out in force for the Gipper. I put on my best suit and made my way around campus, finding mostly positive reactions from the right-wingers who inhabited the dorms in those days… that is, until I returned to my own suite in Green Hall. Dave Ossentjuk ’83 greeted me with a mischievous smile. Dave was an old-school liberal who hated Reagan, and he was mad at me for working on the campaign. He knew I was more of an opportunist that a true believer, and that bugged him even more. But this was my big shot at making good on my internship, and I begged Dave to chill out during Reagan’s speech.  

The big day arrived, and the event went off like clockwork. Red, white, and blue bunting was everywhere. Smiling, clean-cut CMCers and their Scrippsie girlfriends flashed their pearly whites for the cameras. Reagan was in top form. CMC was in the national spotlight. As Reagan began to conclude his remarks in Mudd Quad, I considered myself a shoo-in for top marks on my internship. Just then a huge banner suddenly unfurled from a nearby giant oak tree. Speaking on behalf of the tree, the banner read, simply: “Stop me before I kill again.” Every journalist’s camera whip-panned to the tree. A smiling Dave, sitting on a branch and holding the banner, looked at me a shrugged. He had us nailed, and I knew it. I had to admit, the prank was done in the best CMC way–both subversive and funny. We all laughed about the banner well into the night, as both right- and left-wingers split a case of Miller longnecks on Green Beach and reflected on the big day. I got my internship “A” anyway, and we still laugh about that day 30 years later. 

- Matt Pyken ’83