Occidental College Annual Report 2020-21

Welcome to the 2020-21 Occidental College Annual Report.


In the future, Occidental’s 2020-21 academic year will inevitably be known as our pandemic year. Our unwavering commitment to the health and safety of our students and the Oxy community meant that first-years did not move into residence halls in the fall, Orientation was held online, athletic programs were put on hold and Oxy faculty had to teach remotely. Significantly, the challenges were many, the work was non-stop and the experience was nothing like what anyone had expected.

But to see how everyone rose to the occasion—faculty designing innovative online courses and mastering new virtual teaching tools; staff working nights and weekends to reimagine ways of getting the College’s business done; students engaged and passionate about their education despite being scattered all over the world—was inspiring. With the availability of vaccines in the spring, we were able to start planning for the return of the vibrant in-person Oxy community we so cherish and end the academic year with genuine joy: socially distanced, in-person Commencement ceremonies for the Class of 2021 and, as promised, for the Class of 2020.

One of the most striking aspects of the year was the community’s creativity and resilience. Students continued to participate in our cornerstone Kahane United Nations, Campaign Semester and Obama Scholars programs, even as they were remote. Despite logistical and other concerns, faculty still conducted their research and produced exceptional scholarship.

It will take more than a pandemic to slow the momentum of The Oxy Campaign For Good. This year, trustee Anne Wilson Cannon ’74 became the most generous donor in Oxy history. An incentivized appeal offered by trustee Gil Kemp P’04, together with trustee Mike Gibby ’68 and his wife, Barbara Nogy ’68, generated more than $7 million in previously undocumented planned gifts. And the endowment produced a once-in-a-lifetime investment return that saw it rise above the $500 million mark for the first time ever.

We are greatly encouraged by and thankful for the support we have received, especially in this time of pandemic. Your ongoing commitment to the College not only fuels our optimism, it helps enable us to deliver Oxy’s distinctive liberal arts education. I am so excited about Oxy’s future.

Harry J. Elam, Jr.

Io Triumphe! Tigers Return to Campus

From in-person classes to athletics to live theater, Oxy roared back to life in the fall of 2021. The Class of 2025 enrolled this fall at full strength, with 545 incoming first-years, including 86 gap-year holdovers from the previously admitted class.

graduates posing at commencement 2021 ceremony

Eight tented classrooms accommodated outdoor learning in such disciplines as music, and a rigorous masking and testing policy kept Oxy’s COVID cases to a bare minimum throughout the surge of the Delta variant. Oxy athletics returned to competition with a busy fall schedule of cross country, golf, soccer, swimming and diving, men’s water polo, and exhibition play in tennis. Live theater returned to the Keck Theater stage in November with two productions: Everybody, directed by Associate Professor Sarah Kozinn; and Seize the King, written and directed by Assistant Professor Will Power. Not to be forgotten were the graduating classes of 2021 and 2020, which held socially distanced Commencement ceremonies on Patterson Field in May and June, respectively. “If we have learned anything from the year 2021, it is that 2022 will have its own particular character and we must remain vigilant,” President Elam wrote to the campus community in mid-December. While ongoing concerns surrounding the Omicron variant pushed back the start of the spring 2022 semester to January 24—necessitating a week of remote learning to begin the new year—there was much to celebrate at the conclusion of a successful fall semester.

Mellon Grant Funds Postdoctoral Diversity

Occidental’s ongoing effort to diversify its faculty has received a major boost from a five-year, $950,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that will fund a total of nine one-year postdoctoral fellowships in the arts and humanities. The three cohorts of three fellows will automatically transition to tenure-track faculty positions at the end of their postdoctoral year, making it possible for Occidental to identify and recruit promising scholars whose work focuses on issues of race and/or social justice and whose background, expertise and experiences will contribute to diversifying Oxy’s faculty. (Currently, some 35% of Occidental’s tenured and tenure-track faculty are faculty of color.) “Promoting and practicing diversity, equity and inclusion are critical to our survival and success as a college,” said Occidental President Harry J. Elam, Jr. “We understand that diversity and excellence go hand-in-hand.” Professor of English Leila Neti will serve as the faculty program director, and the first cohort will be hired for the 2022-23 academic year.

Black Studies Department Chair Honors Hewitt’s Legacy

An anonymous $500,000 gift will permanently endow the Mary Jane Hewitt Department Chair in Black Studies, honoring the influential legacy of the first Black woman to serve as a tenured faculty member at Occidental. “I’m excited about all the ways that this endowed chair will help us to deepen our support for Black studies students and faculty,” says Erica Ball, current Black studies chair and professor of history and Black studies, who is the first Hewitt Department Chair. "It gives me great pleasure to know that Mary Jane Hewitt’s legacy as a professor, a scholar, and an activist will be permanently honored by the College." A nationally recognized scholar and advocate, Hewitt joined the Oxy faculty in 1968. She made vital contributions to the College’s curriculum, serving as American studies chair and as the founding head of a campus committee on multicultural education. Despite having received tenure at Occidental in 1977, Hewitt was denied a promotion from assistant to associate professor three times. In 1978, following the third time, she resigned. Her departure sparked important conversations about Occidental’s approach to racial matters in hiring and student enrollment, and ultimately led to more efforts to diversify the campus. Hewitt went on to become the director of Los Angeles’ Museum of African American Art, which was founded in 1976 by artist and art historian Samella Sanders Lewis.

Oxy Marks a Major Campaign Milestone

Defying the disruptions caused by the global pandemic, The Oxy Campaign For Good continues to build momentum, and today the goal of $225 million is clearly within reach.
art profs in studio

‘Belonging at Oxy’ Engages and Surprises

When Jocelyn Pedersen learned that Oxy students would not be returning for in-person learning for the spring 2021 semester, an idea struck her. “I wanted to give participants an opportunity to play creatively and to reflect on their personal experiences of the pandemic," says Pedersen, an adjunct assistant professor of art and art history since 2010. More than 115 students, alumni, parents, faculty, and staff participated in “Belonging at Oxy,” a community book-making project that set out to collect Oxy stories from the pandemic and create a lasting artifact for the College archives. “Each page is a surprise,” Pedersen says. “It’s been so fun to find everything from incredible collages to beautiful watercolors, clever pop-ups and innovative mixed media drawings with carefully chosen quotes or moving essays. The project provided an opportunity for alumni such as Anne Marie "Murtz" Novinger ’57 of Tehachapi to reconnect with a place they hold close. “I still feel a great affinity for my classmates and professors,” she says, “and gained a deep appreciation for Oxy.”

Kristine White

A Senior’s Journey: From Pandemic to Pulitzer

Two months after finishing her Oxy studies under the cloud of the pandemic, Kristine White ’20—an English major and theater minor from Everett, Wash.—began to work remotely as a New York Times news assistant. Eleven months later, White—who spent four years as a staff writer, editor and podcast host for The Occidental—was part of a Times team numbering into the hundreds that won a public service Pulitzer for its data-driven coverage of the pandemic. The Pulitzer board cited the Times for filling “a data vacuum that helped local governments, health care providers, businesses and individuals to be better prepared and protected.” On June 12, 2021, the day after the Pulitzers were announced, White joined more than 240 of her classmates at an in-person Commencement ceremony on Patterson Field—the ceremony promised by the College when COVID-19 forced the cancellation of their traditional Commencement in 2020. “It was an eventful weekend,” she says.

A Campus Icon Gets Repaired and Restored

Amid a flurry of construction completed during the 2020-21 fiscal year, Occidental’s iconic Lucille Gilman Fountain sparkles anew.
A still from senior Naomi Miyamoto's film

Senior Comp Film Screens on KCET Festival

“Well, It Wasn’t Supposed to be This Way,” a short film by Naomi Miyamoto ’21, was a finalist in the 22nd annual KCET Fine Cut Festival of Films, which showcases the work of Southern California’s most promising student filmmakers. This year, more than 350 films were submitted from more than 30 Southern California schools, with 21 films selected as finalists. Miyamoto’s 9-minute short examines the relationship dynamics of nine young couples during the pandemic. To embellish and bridge the interviews, many of which she conducted over Zoom, Miyamoto incorporated snippets of animation, expanding her toolkit as a filmmaker. “Naomi’s film exemplifies the way our MAC majors were able to pivot when the pandemic upended our seniors’ plans for traditional comps films,” says Aleem Hossain, assistant professor of media arts and culture and Miyamoto’s senior comps adviser. “Not only did Naomi manage to make a film under ridiculously hard circumstances, she thrived!” Miyamoto’s film was broadcast on KCET on Sept. 29, 2021, and can be viewed online.

Walker Scores Oxy’s 18th Luce Scholarship

Jordan Walker ’21, an economics major from New York City, was one of 18 students and young professionals chosen nationwide this year for the prestigious Luce Scholarship, which funds a year of study and professional development in Asia. He is currently an associate fellow at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, where he is studying transportation and urban planning. “During my Luce year, I intend to learn as much as I can about how we can reprioritize our cities for people over cars by building effective transportation systems,” Walker said in February. “My ultimate goal is to work toward reimagining an American society where owning a personal car is optional because public transit is the best option.” During his time at Oxy, Walker served as vice president of financial affairs for Associated Students of Occidental College, director/vice president of the Blyth Fund, and a member of strategic College committees related to issues of finance and diversity. He is Occidental’s 18th Luce Scholar since the program was initiated in 1974.

"The Class of 2025 at a Glance"

"The Bottom Line"

Like many colleges and universities, Oxy’s endowment experienced remarkable growth during the 2020-21 fiscal year: a 36 percent return that saw the endowment grow from $439 million to $575 million as of June 30, 2021. This occurred largely due to investments in private equity funds and venture capital in a surging market. While we are delighted with these results, no one expects to see a repeat of what The Wall Street Journal has called “once-in-a-generation gains.”

Because the endowment is intended to provide a stable source of income, the College maintains a policy of spending between 4.5 and 4.9 percent of average endowment balances over a rolling five-year period. This smooths out highs (such as last year’s gains) and lows (such as the losses experienced during the 2009 recession) to provide the College with a more predictable flow of income and long-term financial stability.

Ultimately, no matter how successful our investment strategy, the long-term growth of the endowment is dependent on the continued philanthropic support of the Oxy community. The College needs to grow the endowment to the point where it significantly reduces Oxy's dependence on tuition, room and board, which currently provide about 75 percent of annual operating revenues. Gifts to the endowment are critical to Oxy's ability to grow the endowment, reduce its reliance on tuition income and ensure the College's future—and for that we remain grateful for your support.

Amos Himmelstein
Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

Christopher Varelas ’85
Chair, Investment Committee
Occidental College Board of Trustees

Endowment Performance

Average annual compound returns as of June 30, 2021

  Occidental Endowment 70/30* Benchmark
1 year 36.2% 24.0%
3 year 12.5% 11.4%
5 year 12.1% 10.9%
10 year 8.2% 7.9%
15 year 7.4% 6.8%

*Invested 70% in global stocks (as measured by the MSCI All Country World index) and 30% invested in U.S. bonds (as measured by the BC Aggregate Bond Index).


Revenue Type Amount % of Total
Enrollment-based revenues $55,641,976 53.0%
Endowment support designated for operations $26,672,237 25.4%
Private gifts, grants and contracts $13,025,662 12.4%
Federal and state grants and contracts $7,620,659 7.3%
Auxiliary services
(bookstore, conferences, filming, catering)
$493,160 0.5%
Other $1,629,088 1.6%
TOTAL $105,082,782  


Expenditure Type Amount % of Total
Instruction $38,074,552 36.3%
Auxiliary services $15,300,389 14.6%
Student services $13,631,322 13.0%
Institutional support $12,833,910 12.3%
Academic support $9,332,533 8.9%
Advancement $5,912,322 5.6%
Public service $5,537,604 5.3%
Research $4,129,882 3.9%
TOTAL $104,752,514  

2020-21 Giving

New Gifts & Pledges by Source

40.4% trustees, 31.6% alumni, 15.4% corporations and foundat

Source Amount % of Total
Trustees $12,642,572 40.4%
Alumni $9,884,756 31.6%
Corporations & Foundations $4,804,225 15.4%
Donor-advised Funds $694,603 2.2%
Parents $1,415,230 4.5%
Friends $210,869 0.7%
Trusts & Estates $1,478,891 4.7%
Staff & Administration $163,918 0.5%
TOTAL $31,295,064  

New Gifts & Pledges by Purpose

16.1% The Oxy Fund, 20.6% endowment, 1.0% capital, 46.1% und


Purpose Amount % of Total
The Oxy Fund (unrestricted current operations)* $5,046,516 16.1%
Endowment $6,456,697 20.6%
Capital $318,872 1.0%
Undesignated $14,432,724 46.1%
Other (includes restricted current operations) $5,040,255 16.1%
TOTAL $31,295,064  

*In recent years we reported Oxy Fund cash receipts, which included new gifts and pledge payments. The cash receipts for FY20 were $5,750,000.


New Gifts & Pledges by Type

25.6% revocable bequest intentions, 50.7% pledges, 23.7% new

Type Amount % of Total
New Gifts $7,409,629 23.7%
Pledges $15,870,860 50.7%
Revocable Bequest Intentions $8,014,575 25.6%
TOTAL $31,295,064