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Two Lives in Full Flower – Lyn and John Pohlmann


"My parents told me from an early age that a good education is something no one can take away from you," says Lyn (Gawley) Pohlmann '64. "Once you have that start, you can take on the world." Her husband of 28 years, John Pohlmann '62 agrees: "Occidental gave us an extraordinary education, socially as well as academically."

The late John Rodes, who insisted that Pohlmann stay at Oxy to work toward a master's degree in History on a Haynes Foundation Scholarship, deserves some of the credit for helping John and Lyn meet. The two both appeared, together with Professor Rodes, representing Oxy on KNBC's "College Report" program one weekend—and after the show, John concedes, he had trouble making a date with "the most organized and heavily scheduled" Lyn. Finally, the two went to Little Tokyo to see a samurai movie. "I could read the subtitles, but you don't really have to read the dialog," John says with a laugh.

Assistant professor of history Merlin Stonehouse, who taught at Occidental from 1961-65, supervised John's master's thesis—a biography of developer Alphonzo E. Bell Sr., who made a fortune when oil was discovered on his property in Santa Fe Springs in 1921 and was president of Oxy's Board of Trustees from 1938-46. Stonehouse was "a different and stimulating teacher," John recalls. "He liked to say that if you can find an area of American history where everyone agrees, you can almost be certain that they're all wrong."

Lyn, a music and education double major, recalls what a wonderful introduction to the real world her History of Civilization classes offered, "Despite how we moaned and groaned at the time." She has taught piano to children as young as 5 years old from her home studio in Seal Beach since she and John moved there in 1969.

The Pohlmanns' three-generation Oxy legacy—which includes John's parents, Lorraine (Crawford) '28 , and Lyn and John's daughter, Alison '92—and their admiration for the college have prompted them to volunteer and contribute to the College in countless ways. A few years ago, they created a charitable remainder unitrust which will eventually benefit Occidental. "We had some highly appreciated stock, and the capital gain burden would have been significant," says Lyn, "so we chose to fund a trust that preserves some income for ourselves while supporting charity."

"Occidental has a great deal to do with who we are," John says. "The College gave us unique opportunities that have shaped our entire lives."