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Impact Stories

A Special Bond

The Tortugateers of Prado Dam build a bridge to the early days with their endowed scholarship

In the 50 to 60-plus years since Kenneth Cole ’60, Marshall Sale ’62, and Wayne “Rudi” Smith ’63 were students at Claremont Men’s College, there have been quite a few changes to campus. What remains unwavering: their special bond as members of the Tortugateers of Prado Dam.

The CMC social club, which boasts around 225 members from various class years of the same era, has stayed in touch through dozens of reunions over the years. Today, their ongoing connection perseveres through an endowed scholarship supported by the Tortugateers and the renamed Mara Togas—a “means of giving back to the College and establishing an important bridge from those early days of CMC to today,” Cole said.

“I never thought we’d stay as close as we have in the decades since graduation,” Smith added. “But there’s something to it—what I call the ‘Tortuga mystique.’ It’s a real social spirit that has kept us bonded together through reunions and tons of emails.”

Perhaps the mystique has something to do with being part of an “age of innocence,” Smith said—before serious social and political turmoil, particularly the Vietnam War, changed college campuses nationwide. Life was a bit simpler, he noted, with academics, sports, and pranks (or “leadership with some raucous social activities,” Cole said) adding up to a lot of fun for members of the all-men’s college.

In their post-CMC lives, Jerry Cadagan ’60 and Willy Chamberlin ’62 P’88 were the “motors” who kept everyone together. The group would meet at Chamberlin’s ranch in Los Olivos, Calif., for big barbecues with their extended families. Though both are now deceased, their influence led others to carry the torch and stay connected. “Those reunions really allowed us to keep up professionally and personally, share our family lives, and relive our college days,” Cole said. “We still get together at scholarship lunches on campus or reunions every few years. It’s a special bond.”

Through their valuable scholarship, the Tortugateers bond now extends to a new generation of CMC students and young alumni like Tarah Gilbreth ’18. Established in 2006, the scholarship is offered to qualified CMC students “who work smart, play smart, enjoy life, push boundaries, and look you in the eye at all times”—the same ethos the group proudly carried into their own professional lives.

A philosophy and public affairs major at CMC, Gilbreth said she was drawn to a career in real estate through a Tortugateers connection. She is working at a multifamily development company in Denver and was recently named the newest signatory member of the endowment committee to help guide future scholarship recipients.

“The Tortuga scholarship is so much more than financial assistance. It’s a seat at the table among some of the most energetic, smart, humble, and dedicated people I have ever met,” Gilbreth said. “I have been so graciously included in their reunions and invited into their homes, and I am so excited to pay it forward as a member of their legacy.”

“Giving back has become an enrichment process for us all,” Sale said of the Tortugateers’ enduring devotion to CMC. “The scholars bring us up to date with the present and what their current aspirations are. Once they have graduated, they know to reach out for help or guidance if needed. It’s a win-win situation.”