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Thursday, July 12, 2012
Claremont Graduate University is mourning the loss of Emeritus President Joseph Platt, who died on July 10 at the age of 96.
Platt served as the eighth president of the Claremont Graduate School and University Center (now Claremont Graduate University) from 1976 to 1981. A physicist by trade, he was a strong believer in the liberal arts model of education. Under his leadership the university launched new programs in management, policy, and music.
"Joe was one of the biggest supporters of the university's move towards transdisciplinary scholarship," CGU President Deborah Freund said. "He predicted the future and set forth a vision that is still relevant today. We are deeply saddened by his passing, and our thoughts are with his wife, Jean, and their family."
Platt came to Claremont with Jean in 1956 to become the founding president of another Claremont College, Harvey Mudd. He served there for two decades, building the college into one of the most selective institutions in the United States.
He laid the foundations for a life in education when he graduated from the University of Rochester in 1937 with a degree in physics. Five years later he received a PhD in experimental physics from Cornell University. At Cornell, he worked alongside fellow physicist who later became involved in the Manhattan Project.
In 1943 he was appointed a staff member and section chief of the Radiation Laboratory at MIT, where he continued until 1946. During World War II, Platt worked on radar devices and served with the US military as a civilian introducing the machines into combat use in the European and Pacific theaters.
He returned to Rochester after the war to take a teaching position, which he held until 1949, when he took a post as chief of the Physics Branch of the Research Division of the Atomic Energy Commission in Washington, DC. After two years in Washington, he returned to Rochester, where he both taught in and led the university's Physics Department.
Platt kept close ties to Claremont Graduate University after his retirement. He served as chairman of the Board of Visitors for the School of Educational Studies, established a scholarship fund to support Educational Studies students, and created the Joseph B. Platt Chair for a professor of Educational Studies.
He is survived by his wife, Jean, and his daughters Ann Platt Walker of La Jolla, California, and Beth Platt Garrow of Willowbrook, Illinois. Services are private. A public memorial is planned for the fall.
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