Amid Townsend Crosthwaite Pool renaming, deadline for construction still unclear

The latest capture of construction progress on the new pool in the De Mandel Aquatic Center as of April 3. Courtesy of

President Jonathan Veitch sent an email to the Occidental community March 14 stating that the college would revisit the naming of the planned Townsend Crosthwaite Pool and would be redirecting the $1.5 million donated by former board of trustees member Jennifer Townsend Crosthwaite ’84 and Barry Crosthwaite ’80 to scholarships for first-generation students and funding for women’s sports. This decision was made after the discovery of two La Encina yearbook photographs, one depicting Townsend Crosthwaite ’84 among alumnae posing in blackface, the other of Barry Crosthwaite posing with alumni with the caption “The Aryan Alliance.”

According to swimmer Cindy Dong (first year), there is more concern among aquatics athletes regarding the actual completion of the new pool than the naming.

“It doesn’t seem like it matters that much,” Dong said. “We’re more concerned with the pool being done than who it’s being named after. We talked about how that might not be a good look [if] it was named after the people that were in the photo, but the main concern is that it will be built in time for us and water polo.”

Swimmer Justin Sell (sophomore) said that he hopes the pool will be named after Sammy Lee ’43, an Occidental graduate and a two-time Olympic gold-medalist.

“A lot of us want the pool to be renamed after Sammy Lee ’43, the two-time Olympic diving gold medalist,” Sell said via email. “He faced discrimination and segregation to be the first Asian-American to win a gold medal for the United States, served in the Army Medical Core, and was named the greatest amateur athlete in the U.S. Aside from the Oxy Athletic Hall of Fame, the school hasn’t really honored him, and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of awareness outside the swim & dive team about him. We’re really hoping they do end up naming the new pool after Sammy.”

Two-time Olympic gold-medalist Sammy Lee ’43. Some members of the swim team hope to see Occidental’s pool named in his honor. (Courtesy of Occidental College)

Sell added that the new pool has been promised to recruits for a long time.

“I was also told that we’d have the new pool by now when I was being recruited two years ago, but that’s not exactly unique,” Sell said via email.

According to swimmer Katie Hines (first year), there has long been confusion regarding the completion of the pool.

“The deadline has been changed so many times already and pushed back so many times that people were kind of bummed again, that it was getting pushed back, but at the same time no one really wanted to have the pool named after someone that was going to not have a positive memory in the history of Oxy,” Hines said.

Dong said she has heard the pool may be completed in August. Hines said that a completed pool has been promised to swimmers for a long time.

“Most of our class was recruited with the notion that the pool would be done by the time we got here,” Hines said. “There were some people who were more disappointed that we got here and it has still been another full year, and it just doesn’t seem like it’s going to be open anytime very soon.”

Swimmer Noah Nagel (first year) said the pool’s renovation was advertised to him in his recruitment.

“I remember talking to Steve Webb, swim coach, and leaving Oxy after my recruiting trip, I told my mom, ‘There’s no way that pool is getting done.’ When I came down here, there wasn’t even a hole yet,” Nagel said. “I mean, he’s a coach, he’s trying to get the best swimmers he can to come to the school.”

Nagel added that he didn’t care much what the pool will be named.

“As long as they’re not racist, we’re pretty easy-going,” Nagel said.

Head men’s and women’s swimming and diving coach Steve Webb said via email he has not been involved in discussions regarding the pool.

Recently appointed Athletic Director Shanda Ness declined to comment.

This article was revised April 3, 2019 at 5:01pm to include comments from Justin Sell (sophomore).