Rev. Cyrus Grandison Baldwin

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Rev. Cyrus Grandison Baldwin

Birthplace: Napoli, Cattaraugus County, New York, United States
Death: January 10, 1931 (78)
Palo Alto, Santa Clara County, California, United States
Place of Burial: 1370 El Camino Real, Colma, San Mateo County, California, 94014, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Cyrus Harcourt Baldwin and Mary Plumb Baldwin
Husband of Ella Viola Baldwin
Father of Florence May Baldwin
Brother of Pvt. Willis Edward Baldwin; Mary Harris Cook and Dr. James Fairchild Baldwin

Education: Oberlin College
Education # 2: Andover Theological Seminary
Managed by: Aaron Furtado Baldwin
Last Updated:

About Rev. Cyrus Grandison Baldwin

Rev. Cyrus Grandison Baldwin, the first official President of Pomona College

Baldwin was born in Napoli, New York, in 1852. He moved to Ohio with his family when he was a child and graduated from Oberlin College in 1873. He completed his seminary degree at Andover Theological Seminary in 1876, becoming ordained five years later. After that, he became a professor of Latin at Ripon College, and helped fundraise for the YMCA.

His success at the latter endeavor led to his election as the first official president of Pomona College (Pomona, California) in 1890 by its board of trustees, succeeding trustee Charles Burton Sumner, who had led the college during its founding years. He became popular among both students and community members, enjoying a loyal following.

During his tenure, he sought to raise desperately needed funds for the fledgling school, ultimately increasing its endowment by $100,000 (equivalent to $3.4 million in 2022). When a donor offered to fund a second building for the college, he argued for it to be built in Claremont, rather than the college's planned permanent location at Piedmont Mesa north of Pomona. The decision was supported by the college's board of trustees in a seven-to-four vote, establishing Claremont as the college's permanent home.

In 1891, as part of his fundraising efforts, Baldwin founded the San Antonio Light and Power Company, which built a hydroelectric power station (Pomona Water Powerplant) in San Antonio Canyon that transmitted power to the valley via high-voltage transmission, the first such instance in California. The venture was ultimately unprofitable, though, due to the inconsistency of the water supply.

NOTE: Pomona Water Powerplant is now a California historical landmark. The first hydroelectric installation in California for long-distance transmission of alternating current at high voltage was built in 1892 on San Antonio Creek below this spot by the San Antonio Light and Power Company organized by Dr. Cyrus Grandison Baldwin, President of Pomona College. The first high-voltage transformers built by George Westinghouse for this installation provided for transmission of 10,000 volts from the plant to Pomona.

By 1897, he had become overwhelmed with the pressure of fundraising and resigned at the request of the board of trustees. Upon his retirement, the class of 1898 commissioned an oil portrait for him, noting "his keen sense of justice, his insight into human nature, his scholarly attainments, his broad humanity and his liberal culture," and adding "but more than that, we love the man."

He maintained close ties with Pomona following his presidency, and his daughter, Florence, graduated from Pomona in 1901.
President Cyrus Baldwin, from Pomona College

The trustees had, from the outset, sought an individual qualified to become the College’s first president, but it was only in 1890, three years after incorporation, that Rev. Cyrus Grandison Baldwin was identified and elected to the position, which was first known as President of the Faculty, to distinguish it from the title of President of the Board of Trustees. Baldwin came to Pomona well equipped for the job and was greatly loved and admired, enjoying a loyal following on campus and in the extended community. During the seven years of his administration, enrollment grew from 116 (99 in the Preparatory Department, 17 collegians) to 250, of whom 80 were enrolled in the college course. It was under Baldwin that the decision was made to develop the campus in Claremont and that Holmes Hall was built.

Despite such evidence of success, the College was sorely lacking in resources, and Baldwin found himself overwhelmed by the difficulties of raising desperately needed funds. Although the endowment grew by $100,000 under his supervision, he resigned in 1897, exhausted and discouraged. It is a measure of the high regard in which Baldwin was held that the Class of 1898 commissioned a portrait of him as a gift to the College, presenting it with appreciation for “his keen sense of justice, his insight into human nature, his scholarly attainments, his broad humanity and his liberal culture,” adding “but more than that, we love the man.”


New Departments

New college-level academic departments were introduced in Greek, Latin, English (the English department was previously listed as part of the Preparatory Department), Mathematics and Natural Science.


Baldwin House

Baldwin House was built in 1890 by Pomona’s first president, Cyrus Grandison Baldwin, and his wife, Ella, shortly after their arrival in Claremont. Baldwin House was later occupied by the Healy family and served as a boarding house and, later, a residence hall for Pomona students. Today, it houses faculty offices.


Canvass for Funds

During his first year as president, Cyrus Baldwin announced the “Canvass for Funds” and said that every donor was, in essence, a “stockholder.” The Holmes family donated $25,000 for a new hall, igniting a discussion about whether it should be built on Piedmont Mesa in the city of Pomona, the originally planned College site, or in Claremont. Baldwin supported the Claremont location, and the Board of Trustees agreed, by a vote of 7-4. The campaign raised $50,000 for the endowment.

Claremont Colleges: Seven Institutions

The Claremont Colleges includes five undergraduate liberal arts colleges and two graduate institutions: Pomona College, Claremont Graduate University, Scripps College, Claremont McKenna College, Harvey Mudd College, Pitzer College and Keck Graduate Institute. Located on contiguous campuses in the Southern California city of Claremont, each institution has its own student body, faculty, governance, curricular emphasis, culture, and mission. Intercollegiate cooperation provides university-scale services and facilities. With 9,000 students and 3,600 faculty and staff, located on more than 540 acres of land.


His maternal grandfather, Grandison Fairchild, was a founder of Oberlin College.

His maternal uncles were, George Thompson Fairchild, third President of Kansas State Agricultural College in Manhattan, Kansas (now Kansas State University). James Harris Fairchild, President of Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio; and Edward Henry Fairchild, President of Berea College in Berea, Kentucky

His paternal great-uncle, John Baldwin, was the founder of Baldwin Wallace College in Berea, Ohio and Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas.

His brother, Dr. James Fairchild Baldwin, was the founder of Grant Hospital (now known as OhioHealth Grant Medical Center) in Columbus, Ohio.

His cousin, Charles Grandison Fairchild, was the President of Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida.

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Rev. Cyrus Grandison Baldwin's Timeline

October 10, 1852
Napoli, Cattaraugus County, New York, United States
April 21, 1881
Ripon, Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin, United States
January 10, 1931
Age 78
Palo Alto, Santa Clara County, California, United States
Cypress Lawn Memorial Park, 1370 El Camino Real, Colma, San Mateo County, California, 94014, United States