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Laura Skandera Trombley


Laura Skandera Trombley
Residence California, United States
Fields English Literature
Institutions Pitzer College
Alma mater Pepperdine University, University of Southern California
Doctoral advisor Template:If empty

Laura E. Skandera Trombley is the fifth and current president of Pitzer College.[1] On December 2, 2014, Trombley was named the incoming president of the The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California where she will take over from retiring President Steven S. Koblik on July 1, 2015.[2]


Laura Skandera Trombley was born Laura Elise Skandera and raised in Southern California. At the age of 16, she began attending Pepperdine University, where she earned a BA (1981) and MA summa cum laude (1983). She then earned a PhD in English literature (1989) from the University of Southern California.[3] While at USC, Skandera Trombley was the Lester and Irene Finkelstein Fellow and received the Virginia Barbara Middleton Scholarship and the English Graduate Student Scholarship. In 2002, she was honored as one of Pepperdine University's Accomplished Alumni[4] and in 2013 received an honorary doctorate from Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology.[5]

Upon completion of her PhD, Skandera Trombley accepted a teaching position at the State University of New York in Potsdam where she was awarded early tenure as associate professor of English and held several administrative posts, including special assistant to the president, director of the Teaching, Tenure and Promotion Assistance Program and assistant provost. In 1997, Skandera Trombley assumed the post of vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty at Coe College, a private liberal arts college in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She became president of Pitzer College in 2002.

Skandera Trombley has authored five books—the most recent, Mark Twain's Other Woman: The Hidden Story of His Final Years[1], was published by Knopf in March 2010. The paperback edition was released on March 8, 2011.

In December 2012, President Barack Obama named Trombley to the 12-member J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board that was established by US Congress to supervise the global Fulbright program.[6]


Skandera Trombley's inauguration as president of Pitzer College on February 15, 2003 marked the beginning of the College's 40th anniversary year. She has positioned herself as a visionary leader, bringing to the College a level of energy and imagination suitable for a progressive young college combined with the seriousness and determination of an institution that is, as she noted in her inaugural address, "coming of age." In her first year in office she supported the faculty in their desire to make the SAT optional as a criterion for admission to the College, making Pitzer the West Coast innovator in SAT-optional admission practices. She led Pitzer's first strategic planning process whereby faculty, students, staff, alumni, and trustees collectively identified the College's five-year fiscal priorities.

Since she took office, Pitzer has founded several new collegiate centers and majors. Most recently, the College launched the Robert Redford Conservancy for Southern California Sustainability at Pitzer College.[7] Other initiatives developed during Trombley’s tenure include the Firestone Center for Restoration Ecology in Costa Rica, Pitzer’s Institute for Global/Local Action and Study and the Vaccine Development Institute’s partnership with the University of Botswana.[8] In 2011, Pitzer became the first college in the country to offer a degree in secular studies.[9]

In the ten years since she assumed leadership of the College, the admission acceptance rate has gone from 56% to 15.7% and the College moved up 35 places in the US News & World Report rankings- From #70 in 2004 to #35 in 2013[10] In 2012, Pitzer was named the 20th most selective higher education institution in the country by Business Insider.[11]

Trombley secured the two largest single donor gifts in Pitzer’s history. Since 2001, the College’s annual fund has grown by 80% and its endowment has increased by 151%.

During her presidency, Pitzer College became the national leader in Fulbright Fellowships won by students and alumni. Since 2002, Pitzer College received more Fulbright Fellowships per 1000 students than any other college or university in the US. Seventy-four percent of Pitzer students study abroad, compared to under 2% nationally. Most recently, Pitzer was named the ninth most selective liberal arts school and ranked 17th nationwide for faculty commitment to teaching by the 2010 "US News and World Report." In the same publication, Pitzer's Study Abroad Program was named an outstanding academic program and ranked 11th among liberal arts colleges for racial diversity.

President Trombley is a proponent of environmental sustainability on college campuses.[12] During her tenure, Pitzer College constructed eight mixed-use residence halls that have earned either LEED Platinum- or Gold-certification from the US Green Building Council.[13] Pacific Horticulture Magazine described Pitzer’s low-water landscaping as “the most sophisticated and artfully presented collection of succulents, desert plants, and Mediterranean-climate plants outside of a botanical garden."[14] Since 2002, the College has cut its water use in half.


Recognized as a noted Mark Twain scholar, Skandera Trombley's fifth book, Mark Twain's Other Woman: The Hidden Story of His Final Years [2] was published by Knopf in March 2010. She is also the author of Mark Twain in the Company of Women (1994) and co-editor (with Michael Kiskis) of the volume Constructing Mark Twain: New Directions in Scholarship (2002). She appeared in the 2002 Ken Burns documentary titled "Mark Twain" and was invited to a White House literary symposium on American authors. In addition, she is the editor of Critical Essays on Maxine Hong Kingston (1998); and co-author of Epistemology: Turning Points in the History of Poetic Knowledge (1986). Since becoming president at Pitzer, she has published op-ed pieces in the Chronicle of Higher Education on the challenges faced by women in higher education administration and access to college in California, in the Los Angeles Times on the merits of the SAT exams as predictors of college success and on The Daily Beast on Mark Twain as the first American celebrity.

Other Activity

In 2008, Skandera Trombley received the CEO Leadership Award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education District VII. In the June 2005 issue of The Inland Empire Magazine, she was named as one of five "women who count" in the Inland Empire by setting the standard for achievement in their field.

Skandera Trombley is an active leader within Los Angeles area and national organizations. She has served as a member of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce Board, the Webb Schools Board, the San Gabriel Chapter of the Young Presidents' Organization, the Organization of Women Executives, the Pacific Council on International Policy, The Trusteeship, the Council on Foreign Relations Higher Education Working Group on Global Issues, the Chronicle of Higher Education/New York Times Higher Education Cabinet.

In addition to the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, Trombley is a member of the Chief Executives Organization, the Council of Presidents of the Association of Governing Boards and the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity and the Rotary Club of Claremont.

On December 2, 2014 it was announced that Skandera Trombley has been selected to become the next president of The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in the city of San Marino, CA. Laura will take the helm on July 1, 2015.