September 9, 2021

Passings: Pamela Mullin, Dream and Believe Creator and Former Trustee, 1943-2021

A POIGNANT MOMENT: One of the most exciting moments during spring Commencement is the presentation of the Dream and Believe Award, which was established by the late Pamela Mullin and her children. Here SES doctoral alumna Samara Suafoa shows her shock and joy at being selected in 2019. She was presented with the award by by SES Dean DeLacy Ganley (right)

Pamela Mullin answered a call in the mid-1990s.

It was from then Claremont Graduate University President John Maguire. He had a simple reason for contacting her: He wanted her to join the university’s Board of Trustees.

Though his tenure as president was ending (he’d step down a few years later), Maguire knew the university’s Board needed visionaries and builders to lead the university into the new millennium. Mullin turned out to be a very shrewd, wise choice: She became just the kind of leader Maguire knew that CGU needed.

During eight years of service to CGU, Mullin led the “Building a Foundation” fundraising campaign that raised more than $50 million for the endowment. She established the Pamela Mullin Scholarship (that has allowed generations of students without the financial resources to attend CGU) as well as another award whose announcement is one of the emotional highlights of CGU’s Commencement every year: The Pamela Mullin Dream and Believe Award.

The CGU community is mourning the passing of Mullin, who, according to a notice posted in the Los Angeles Times, died in late August as a result of a traumatic brain injury. She was 78.

FORMER TRUSTEE PAMELA MULLIN: “An important example of what stewardship should be,” says CGU President Len Jessup. (Photo credit:

Grit and determination

A tribute to Mullin posted on describes how at the age of 18 Mullin, a native of Scotland, came to California alone. Studying a map of the Los Angeles area, she spotted the name “Garden Grove” and decided that it “sounded like an English village.” But when she arrived there and realized it was far from a rustic little village, she headed for Los Angeles instead.

Mullin held  two jobs–one by day, another by night–and with her marriage to Peter Mullin,the owner of Management Compensation Inc., a downtown management consultant firm, she settled down into family life as well as devoting herself along with her husband to philanthropic service during 25 years of marriage.

In addition to joining the CGU Board, Mullin served and supported many other organizations including the PUENTE Learning Center, St. Paul the Apostle Church, Marlborough School, Loyola High School, Sacred Heart of San Francisco, and the ASPCA. She also became involved in Mayor Richard Riordan’s re-election campaign and served as his finance chairman in 1993.

A “Secret” Award

Mullin and her children established The Pamela M. Mullin Dream and Believe Award at CGU in 2000 with a $1 million endowment to support a continuing doctoral student, and the award has been life-changing for its recipients.

Mullin’s joyful outlook on life—as well as her understanding of human behavior—are reflected in how the award is given. Candidates are unaware that they have been nominated (she believed people act differently when they know they’re under scrutiny for an award), and the winner is surprised by his or her selection during the annual Commencement ceremony. That announcement is a very exciting and tearful moment during the ceremony.

“Anybody can put on a great front,” she explained in an interview in the university’s Flame magazine soon after creating the award. “Many dreamers are the unsung heroes. The unnoticed ones are the ones I wanted to recognize, the ones whose focus is not on competing for an award but on their dream.”

MAKING DREAMS POSSIBLE: Mullin (right) presents the first Dream and Believe Award to Linus Ikyurav.

A Model of Stewardship

“As you look at her record of achievement and impact here at CGU, you find that Pamela Mullin is an important example of what stewardship can and should be,” said CGU President Len Jessup, who informed the CGU Board of Trustees of her passing.

According to the Times’ notice, Mullin is survived by Brian and Kelly Mullin (Stella, Sloane, Cal); Darcy and Matthew Cobb (Lachlan, Tate, Macdonald); Tim and Rebecca Mullin (Grayson, Finley, Courtney); John and Tessa Garvan (Richard, James); Gillian and Douglas Main (Rachel, Robbie); Lesley and Kevin Finn (Rebecca, Oliver); Norfolk Terriers (Coco, Tanner).

A service will be held this week, on Sept. 10, at 1:30 p.m. at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Los Angeles.

In light of the times we are living in, her family is requesting that attendees be fully vaccinated; for those who aren’t or who cannot attend, a streaming link will be made available by the church here.