For most of the years of the Club’s history, the serving of alcoholic beverages was not permitted during luncheon hours. However, after much debate and deliberation in the early 1980’s, the Board of Governors decided that the Club would allow alcohol to be served during luncheon hours. The concern that if “demon rum” was served at lunch some members would abuse the privilege proved to be of no consequence.
The issue causing more controversy than drinking at lunch was the question of opening the Club membership to women. During most of the Club’s history women were not able to be members or eat in the main dining room. Women could only attend meetings in one of the Club’s smaller rooms or to attend social occasions with a member. Over the years the issue of allowing women members was discussed, however, the membership was set in its ways and the rules were not changed. In 1977 two young lawyers took the “bull by the horns” and sponsored for membership Candis Tyson Ipswitch, a young female lawyer whose father and grandfather both belonged to the Club. The application for membership was declined and the Club members voted to maintain the “men only” policy.
In the early eighties, the Board of Governor’s unanimously agreed that the Club had to change its policy, but did so in incremental steps. In George Baffa’s year of Presidency (1984-85) the first step was taken, which allowed women to come to the main dining room during luncheon hours as guests of members. This new policy created no problems and the majority of the members felt it was a positive step. Early in John L. (“Jack”) Bonholtzer’s presidency (1986-87), the Board of Governors voted that it was time to put the issue of allowing women full membership in the Club to a vote of the Club’s members. The membership chairman, Gleesan Payne (President 1954-55) and President Bonholtzer both fully supported full membership for women and when the issue was put to the vote of the members, the measure passed overwhelmingly. The local press heard about the decision and the Club received extensive media coverage, newspaper, radio, and television. For weeks, members were interviewed by television news reporters as they arrived for lunch.
Many women now enjoy membership in The University Club and are involved in leadership positions in our activities and operations. Several have served as President of the Board of Governors, including Susan T. House (1993-94), Elaine Gregory (1999-00), Christle Balvin (2004-05), Nancy Shaw (2006-07) and Nancy Corrigan (2007-08); and M. Helen Baatz (2009-2010) and presently Gloria Pitzer (2010-2011). Candis Tyson Ipswitch was in the first group of women elected to membership, and subsequently served on the Board of Governors. Candis is an active and valued member to this day, lunching almost daily in the main dining room, and more than holding her own in lively conversation with whomever is seated at her table.
In 1993, the University Club of Los Angeles, which had been founded in 1898, and thus preceded the University Club of Pasadena by 25 years, closed its doors. There was a “transfer of membership” program, which encouraged LA’s members to transfer to Pasadena without formalities. Over twenty former University Club of Los Angeles members did so, including notable current regulars Richard Henderson, Wally Erickson and Ted Calleton. Most of the Los Angeles library also came to Pasadena; the books can be distinguished by the book plates. Along with the books, came a piece of antique furniture, and the portrait of Judge Russ Avery, one of the University Club of Los Angeles’ founders.
The University of Club of Pasadena’s downstairs “billiard room” was transformed into the Club Pub (still housing one pool table) in 2002. This project, primarily the brainchild of Board member Allan Munnecke, is noteworthy since it was largely financed by Club members. Today, the stairwell into the pub is lined with vintage photos of the Rose bowl in various stages of construction. These photos were supplied by member Bill Leishman, whose grandfather, William Leishman, was the inspiration for this Myron Hunt designed national treasure. Bill’s father, the late Lathrop Leishman was also a member of the Club and is distinguished by a special trophy given out annually to a float in the Rose parade. The Club Pub is a favorite spot for causal member activities, as well as, regular breakfast and lunch groups.
In 2004, President Christle Balvin read the Club’s history and learned about the main dining room “view window” that had been eliminated in 1948. Noting that the objectionable “old garages” were no longer there, she moved to have the window restored. Notwithstanding the vocal objection of two fiscal curmudgeons on the Board (John Burrows and Richard Henderson), the motion easily passed and the work on the window commenced. It turned out that the original window had been left intact, window panes and all, within the walls for over 55 years. All that was missing was the original sarcasm, since the “view window” now overlooks a pleasant leafy prospect.
In recent years, the Club has been open to outside banquet and wedding business and has become the meeting venue for community and professional organizations, including The Rotary Club, Kiwanis Club and often the Pasadena Bar Association. This has helped strengthen the bonds between the Club and the community, and for this, The Club is deeply grateful.
Unfortunately, it seemed the tail was wagging the dog, with the balance of outside groups and nonmember activities outweighing member events. Under the leadership of President David Mans, in 2008 the Board of Governors adopted a strategic plan that rebalanced the mix of activities, which led to a members’ dues rollback, and outside groups paying market rate. With the further addition of reciprocal arrangements with prominent clubs worldwide, member value increased. This refocusing of efforts rebranded the Club from “where Pasadena does business,” to “where members come first.” Despite the challenging economic times of 2008-2010, membership is on the rise, with young professionals joining the Club in record numbers.
The University Club of Pasadena continues to be an institution made up of the leading business and professional men and women of the greater Pasadena area and provides a friendly and stimulating environment for its members. A great debt is owed to the founders of the Club, presidents and numerous Governors, committee chairs and members who have generously given of their talents and time.
Pasadena has been blessed with good fortune and an important part of this is the existence and availability of one of America’s most successful University Clubs – The University Club of Pasadena.