Obituary: Albert Schwartz

Beloved professor, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather

Longtime Claremont resident and the first sociologist hired by Pitzer College, Albert “Al” Schwartz died peacefully on December 9. He was 90 years old.

He was born on July 26, 1933, in the South Bronx to David Schwartz, a Polish immigrant, and Sarah (nee Lachman) Schwartz, a Romanian immigrant. Yiddish speaking, they met shortly after arriving as young adults in New York. Al was the youngest of their five children. He grew up on the streets of NYC — water play in fire hydrants in the summer, stickball amidst traffic, softball, football, and finally, basketball. Once his family moved to the Lower East Side where he started second grade, he also spent his days at a Settlement House established for children of immigrants. He claimed to have “resigned” from kindergarten. Subsequently, he was twice advanced in school grades, once while living on the Lower East Side and again when he returned to the South Bronx. In high school, he and his best friend Bobby Maisel organized the Orioles, a street team that played basketball and proudly wore “gang” jackets. The two also played basketball for the Bronx School of Science and Technology, from which he graduated at the age of 16 in 1950.


Before enlisting in the United States Army, he together with Bobby tried to play basketball at a couple of colleges: first at State University New York Binghamton, which they abandoned when he broke his finger; second at CCNY which they left in 1951 immediately upon learning that members of the team had been arrested owing to involvement in a college point-shaving scandal. He served in the army as a clerk/typist in Korea and Japan from 1953 to 1955, honing his skills as a mesmerizing storyteller, a gifted raconteur.

He earned his B.A. from Hunter College and his M.A. in sociology from Ohio State University, where he met and married Suzanne Connett. He and Susie settled in Claremont in 1965, where they raised their son Aaron, who attended elementary through high school in his hometown. In 1986 he met his second wife, Jill Benton, a Pitzer College professor of literature. They married in 1988.

Besides starting the sociology field group at Pitzer, he served in several leadership positions, including dean of faculty (1971-1977), dean of students (1977-1978), and special assistant to the president (1982-1983). Through it all, he continued to teach up until his retirement in 1995.

His areas of expertise included construction of social and personal realities; crowds and fads; sports; and deviance. His class “Alternative Social Worlds” was especially popular with sociology majors. Together with his friend and colleague Barry Sanders he team-taught a course on cities. The New Resources Program at Pitzer College was originally founded under Al Schwartz’s name. The focus of the program, which began in 1974, was to make the small liberal arts college experience available to non-traditional aged students, who in turn would bring new backgrounds, perspectives, and interests to the college. He often said that he had fallen into an academic paradise at Pitzer, where he had the heady experience of helping invent a new liberal arts college while surrounded by colleagues who became his dear friends.

Building on his Pitzer experience, in 1993 he was key to founding an American style liberal arts college, Miyazaki International University, on the Japanese Island of Kyushu. As academic president and dean of faculty, he designed the entire curriculum, hired all of its first-year faculty, and ferried the enterprise through a challenging federal accreditation process by the Japanese Ministry of Education.

When the informal Pitzer faculty basketball team disbanded, he turned to tennis, with his deft lobs dominating the singles ladder for decades at The Claremont Club.

He was also an intrepid traveler. With wife Jill at his side he climbed the pyramid at Palenque, hiked successfully after mountain gorillas in Uganda, drove the roads of Eastern European countries newly available after the fall of the Berlin Wall, explored northern and southern regions of India and countries such as Canada, Mexico, Nicaragua, Chile’s Patagonia, Peru, and other European countries, often residing for months at a time in London.

He is survived by his wife Jill; son Aaron Schwartz and his wife Jennifer King, her son Damen King and his wife Leslie and their son Quincy; stepdaughter Kate Nyce Tandon and her husband Dan and their children Griffin and Sienna; and stepson Christopher Nyce and his wife Rukmini and their daughters Rasa, Priya, and Jaya. His remaining beloved sister Ethel Albinder (93) resides in Florida. He was dear Uncle Albie to numerous nieces and nephews and their children.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donating to Pitzer College in support of the New Resources Scholarship Fund in memory of Al Schwartz at


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