Amherst Magazine

First George Washington. Now Biddy Martin.

By Emily Gold Boutilier

What does Biddy Martin have in common with Hillary Clinton, Paul McCartney and Clint Eastwood? All are among the 220 newest members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Inducted at a gala in Cambridge, Mass., in October, the Amherst president joined a field of new members that also includes Amazon.com founder Jeffrey Bezos, businesswoman and philanthropist Melinda Gates, playwright Neil Simon and former Amherst President Anthony W. Marx.

Among Martin’s favorite parts of the gala were, as she wrote in an email, “the unabashed celebration of curiosity, knowledge, collaboration and achievement; talks by Margaret McFall-Ngai, David Blight and Maureen Mahoney; the reading of Lincoln’s letters by Daniel Day-Lewis; Thomas Hampson’s performance of American songs; and Bill Cosby’s riff on his experience of the Saturday morning panels.”

The Academy, founded in 1780, counts some 250 Nobel laureates and 60 Pulitzer Prize winners among its members. Members from earlier eras range from George Washington to Ralph Waldo Emerson to Winston Churchill.

Several current members are Amherst alumni. They include Amos Hostetter ’58, former chair of the college’s board of trustees and founder of Continental Cablevision; William H. Pritchard ’53, the Henry Clay Folger Professor of English; Harold Varmus ’61, director of the National Cancer Institute; and David Kessler ’73, author of The End of Overeating and former Food and Drug Administration commissioner. Current trustees Danielle S. Allen and Howard Gardner are also Academy members.

The Academy conducts independent policy research, and its members contribute to publications and studies of science, technology and social policy; energy and global security; the humanities; culture; and education. Martin will continue her involvement with the Academy’s Commission on the Future of the Humanities and Social Sciences.