“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”
– Jorge Luis Borges
JULY/AUGUST 2015 - With great happiness and pleasure, I have realized a lifelong dream. Walking in the footprints of a beaming Henry Huntington, who had sublimity figured out in 1919, I have finally merged two of my favorite things: a happy home and a world-class library. Oh my! The whipped cream of course is my backyard consisting of the botanical gardens and the art galleries. Arcadia realized!
In the space of just one month, after 38 years first as a student, then a faculty member, then an administrator and finally president, I have at long last graduated—interestingly, in the same year that my son Spark will be entering higher education as a first year student at Union College in Schenectady, New York. Life, though, is all about transitions, some more gracefully wrought than others, and this one is without question one of my happiest. While my 13 years as Pitzer College’s president were fascinating and rewarding ones to be sure, coming to The Huntington is a culmination of all that means the most to me: literary archives, educational outreach, art collections, and botanical gardens, as well as the opportunity to more fully embrace my scholarly inclinations. There is a beautiful sense of having come full circle to be living on the grounds of a Southern California icon where I once played as a child and then grew as a scholar working in the archives, and upon whose landscaping expertise I relied when designing the gardens at Pitzer. Of course, as a Mark Twain scholar, the last puzzle piece clicked into place when I learned about Twain’s connection to Archer Huntington, Arabella’s son. In addition to Mark Twain serving as a trustee on the board of the Hispanic Society of America, which Archer Huntington founded, Archer’s widow, Anna Hyatt Huntington, made one of her final gifts to the Mark Twain Library in Redding, Conn., where Twain had established a library in honor of his daughter Jean.
I can honestly report that The Huntington has positively changed my life, throughout my life, and it’s doing so again in the most profound of ways. To lead a unique and historical institution like this is at once exhilarating and humbling. And coming with me is my family: my son, Spark, who will join me at the President’s house when he’s on break from college; my partner, Bruce; Miss Wrinkles, our hapless but deeply charismatic old English bulldog; and Tiger, Rufus, and Rosebud—highly valued and fairly useless cats. (“A home without a cat—and a well-fed, well-petted and properly revered cat — may be a perfect home, perhaps, but how can it prove title?” –Pudd’nhead Wilson)
By the time you read this, we’ll be packed and ready to roll west down the 210 and into San Marino. The plan at this writing is to move in by mid-July. We couldn’t be more excited.
And what a time to be headed your way: the gorgeous Steven S. Koblik Education and Visitor Center is up and running, with an expanded program of lectures and symposia. We are also adding to the American art collections at such a pace that it has quickly become one of the largest displays of American art west of the Mississippi. Our slate of exhibitions continues to amaze me in its diversity—from 20th-century British modernism to our major
exhibition on the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. And not to be outdone, a stunning exhibition of botanical art, complete with a symposium, lectures, and hands-on workshops.
Meanwhile, this is the busiest time of year in the Library, as scholars rush from their campuses to the balmy grounds of The Huntington to take advantage of the summer break to do a bit of their own research. They’ll be keeping our staff very, very, busy. It’s a pace I know well and thrive on. The Huntington is on the move, and I am thrilled to be a part of the journey. Here we go!
Laura Skandera Trombley, President