Susan Shively Zare

“Learning is a lifelong endeavor” read the Chinese characters on my souvenir mug. The words aptly describe my own journey. Although learning started earlier, Pomona College shaped my future at a critical period. Since entering the academy, I have never left. Every job since Pomona has been with an institution of higher learning. My husband and most of my friends belong to academia. Yes, it is an “ivory tower” existence, but I hope my critical thinking skills, a Pomona legacy, keep me aware of the greater world.

My employment history varied from computer programming (B.A. in math) to psychology research to development of a chemistry course for non-science majors before I finally found my niche as a counselor thirty years after graduation. That history includes a long timeout to raise three daughters before pursuing a master’s degree in counseling at age 53. Volunteer work, especially in the arts and education, kept me learning. Now, as an academic advisor at Stanford University, every day offers an opportunity to work with bright young people at that very impressionable stage of late adolescence. Listening to their dreams and aspirations while promoting the value of a liberal arts education keeps me young and inspired

My husband, a chemistry professor, and I will celebrate our 39th anniversary this year. When we started out together neither of us could have predicted the life we have led. Through his work we have developed a network of friends, colleagues, and former students that has allowed us to travel the world and see localities from a different perspective than the average tourist. Those travels included a week at Pomona where he gave the Robbins Lectures in chemistry. I had the opportunity to renew acquaintance with my former professors and to see the campus with so many new buildings. Most importantly we spent time with Pomona students. I came away with an understanding that Pomona’s core values remain the same even so long after my own undergraduate years.

My most memorable experience was looking into the bright eyes of my first child as I welcomed her to the world. One of my great joys is watching our three children make their own ways. Their paths are not always easy, but they survive and thrive. Now my four-year-old grandson begins the next generation. The sense of connectedness to both family and friends seems ever more important after September 11.

Retirement looms as the question of the future. My husband will never retire; he loves his work too much. I love mine, too, but having freedom from a demanding schedule looks ever more appealing. Retirement would undoubtedly involve some kind of volunteer work in counseling and also more time for learning. The beginning of a long list starts with becoming proficient in Spanish and playing the piano. Pomona prepared me for a life of inquiry. May the opportunity to learn never stop.