Jerome “Jerry” H. Garris P’91 P’01, former CMC vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty, will be remembered Saturday, August 8, at 11:00 am PDT at an online memorial celebration.
To attend the memorial for Jerry Garris on Saturday, August 8 at 11 a.m., please go to
zoom.com/join and enter meeting ID 929 7928 6424.
A pillar of campus life for decades, Garris, 81, led major initiatives across the administration. During his tenure and throughout his retirement, he was deeply supportive of faculty, staff, alumni, and students, said CMC President Hiram Chodosh.
“Jerry was so universally respected, beloved,” said Chodosh. “He was CMC's dean of deans, who could take on any challenge with keen insight and warm grace. Jerry had an incalculable impact on all of us.”
Garris earned his PhD in political science from UCLA in 1972, having completed bachelor’s and master’s degrees at San Francisco State University and Stockholm University in Sweden. He joined CMC’s faculty in 1974 as an assistant professor of political science and quickly distinguished himself as an institutional leader.
In 1977, then-President Jack Stark ’57 GP’11 named him vice president and dean of students, though Garris also remained an active member of the faculty. Among many other accomplishments as dean, Garris chaired a committee to re-envision the Athenaeum program, which resulted in the construction of the new building named in honor of Marian Miner Cook. He also was instrumental in the successful implementation of the College’s decision to become a coeducational institution in 1976. He subsequently helped effectuate the 1981 transition of the College’s name from Claremont Men’s to Claremont McKenna College.
CMC’s Board of Trustees Chairman David Mgrublian ‘82 P'11 said Garris was the College and the Board’s “go to” person.
“He was always willing to apply his calm, thoughtful, and good-humored approach to anything we threw at him. He loved CMC and we loved him,” Mgrublian said. “He was my professor, my dean of students, my mentor as a trustee, and my advisor as Board Chair. He taught me how academic affairs work in higher education and more specifically at CMC.” Garris taught an expanded “Introduction to American Government” class for first-year students, which quickly became a favorite among undergraduates, recalled John Faranda ’79, ambassador-at-large for the College. With Pitzer College’s Walter Zelman and Pomona College’s Dan Mazmanian, Garris also developed a congressional simulation class that was extremely popular and continues to be taught in a different format at CMC.
“To many of us in the Class of 1979, he became a respected mentor and friend, and he continued to engage with us at our weddings, reunions, and other gatherings. His genuine interest in us as students and as friends represented the best of the magic that is the CMC community,” said Faranda.
In 1984, Garris left CMC for Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, serving first as dean of the college, and after 1990, as provost and acting president. He returned to CMC in 1998, joining the development team as director of foundation and corporate relations. Garris quickly took on more roles, as associate vice president of research and institutes and a senior lecturer in government. In 2005, then-President Pamela Gann named Garris vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty, the 12th in the College's history. In that role, he advocated eloquently for the centrality of research to the mission of a liberal arts college.
“Jerry was an outstanding member of the CMC community, as a teacher, dean of students, dean of faculty, and most significantly as a man of great integrity and empathy toward everyone he met. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him,” said Stark.
In 2006, Garris transitioned into a new post as senior associate dean of the faculty and vice president for special projects and stayed active in CMC life as dean emeritus, leading CMC’s reaccreditation review by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and spearheading other important initiatives.
“Jerry was an incredible mentor for students, alumni, faculty, and members of the administration. He cared deeply about everyone with whom he worked, and always made the College his top priority,” said Torrey Sun, who followed Garris in the dean of students role.
In civic life, Garris was a long-time member and past chair of the board of trustees of Pilgrim Place, a senior-living community in Claremont. In his spare time, he was an Egyptologist and automobile enthusiast. He was elected an honorary member of the CMC Alumni Association in 2005.
Garris is survived by his wife Penny, sons Christian ’91 and Alexander ’01, and grandchildren Nathaniel and Madeleine.