Amherst College Receives $13 Million To Launch Center for Community Engagement

July 19, 2006
Director of Media Relations
413/542-8417

AMHERST, Mass.—A philanthropic investment of more than $13 million from the Argosy Foundation over the next seven years will establish a Center for Community Engagement at Amherst College. This new investment will build on the success of a four-year partnership that has significantly expanded opportunities for Amherst students to learn through public service.

“The Center for Community Engagement,” says Anthony W. Marx, the president of Amherst College, “will encourage the integration of ideals and action by drawing hundreds of Amherst students into community service through linked curricular and co-curricular programs. Amherst aims to graduate thoughtful and active citizens-men and women who not only care deeply about the pressing problems facing our society today, but also have the skills, experience and determination to create positive change in their communities. We will make substantive and attractive opportunities for service available to all students, including those who cannot volunteer without pay.”

The search for an experienced professional to lead the Center for Community Engagement will begin in the autumn. In coming years, the Center will work to build partnerships with a core group of community organizations regionally and nationally that are active in areas such as poverty, public education, human rights, the environment and public health. The Center for Community Engagement plans to establish a new incentive program through which Amherst students will commit to regular service in the local community and in turn receive paid January or summer public service internships. Ultimately, hundreds of Amherst students each year will be able to spend their summers helping others through internships at service organizations across the country and around the world, including some in our own community, such as Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity. The Center for Community Engagement will also assist Amherst faculty in developing community-based learning courses that will help students ground their hands-on service experiences within the intellectual framework provided by Amherst’s liberal arts curriculum.

“The focus of the Center—connecting students to communities through public service so they can better understand life’s circumstances and act on their ability to bring about positive change—is in keeping with the vision of the Argosy Foundation,” says founder John Abele, a 1959 graduate of Amherst College and founding chairman of Boston Scientific. “As a private family foundation, we envision building communities, encouraging others to contribute in their own ways, and collaborating creatively to find unique, even entrepreneurial solutions to complex problems. College students can be especially good at all of these. We also wish to leverage our philanthropic investment across the field of higher education and connecting students in the way envisioned is, hopefully, a start to something bigger. Integrating public service learning experiences with higher education formation so that, as a result, more value is generated back to society is, ultimately, what we’re after. I’m delighted that President Marx is pursuing this initiative which will bring value to the communities being served and a unique and useful perspective to the participating students."

Noting Amherst’s long history of support for a range of nonprofits in the Pioneer Valley, Marx added, “We are all enthusiastic at the prospect of strengthening Amherst's partnerships with organizations serving our community and of forging new relationships with nonprofits further afield. “Our students are eager to learn from those who have dedicated their lives to serving others, and have much energy and good will to bring to this enterprise. We believe students elsewhere will benefit, too, from the learning that will be shared willingly with others looking for ways in which higher education can demonstrate to society a greater return on the investment.”

Last year, one in four Amherst students volunteered their time locally as mentors or tutors to children in area public schools, at domestic-violence prevention programs, hospitals and other valuable community organizations. Groups of students also traveled to New York City and Washington, D.C. during the January interterm to teach in underserved urban schools, assist in pro-bono legal work and talk with Amherst alumni who have chosen careers in public service.

The Argosy Foundation is a family philanthropy established by John E. Abele, a 1959 graduate of Amherst College, where he majored in physics and philosophy. Abele was the founding chairman of Boston Scientific Corporation, a pioneer in the less-invasive medical device industry.

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