Amherst College President Anthony W. Marx to step down June 30, 2011, to head New York Public Library
October 6, 2010
Director of Public Affairs
AMHERST, Mass. – Amherst College President Anthony W. Marx announced today that he will resign on June 30, 2011, after eight years as head of the college, to become president of the New York Public Library.
In an e-mail letter to the college community, Marx summarized the college’s achievements during his tenure, which focused on realizing Amherst’s aim to be both the most selective and the most diverse liberal arts college in the country, ensuring access for the most talented students of any economic background, curricular renewal and connecting the curriculum to research and internship/service experiences to inspire lifelong engagement.
“In recent years,” the letter said, “we have seen measures of student academic standards increase for every cohort we track. Our low-income enrollment—now about 25 percent—has more than doubled, significantly outpacing that of our peers and ensuring mobility based on talent. Amherst now better includes and represents the world we inhabit—with a student body that is more than 40 percent students of color and nearly 10 percent international students. All of our students also benefit from need-blind admission.
“We have seen further developments in our curriculum, with the first new majors in decades, the first new college-wide requirement in more than a generation for writing, and increased reliance on external reviews for tenure and for departments to ensure that we get the best advice on all fronts. We have sought to instill values and civic engagement through service opportunities connected to the curriculum. A new science center is being planned that will enhance our campus and our intellectual life.
“And in the last two years of economic difficulty,” he continued, “we have acted together to ensure the sound financial footing of the College, reducing projected per student expenditures in unprecedented ways, while not cutting access for the best students, not laying off our valued staff colleagues and with significant additions to the faculty—the lifeblood of our educational and scholarly mission. For all of this we have seen remarkable support from our alumni, including the two largest gifts in the history of the College and the largest unrestricted gift to any college, enabling us to be in reach of our five year campaign goal within the two worst economic years in my lifetime.”
Jide Zeitlin, chairman of the Amherst College Board of Trustees, said, “In leading with passion, integrity and skill, Tony Marx has shown that America’s great institutions can be proud of their past and can be confident in their, in our, future.”
“The New York Public Library is fortunate to have attracted such a values-based leader,” he added. “While we will miss Tony when he departs next year, our community is both honored that he will be serving one of America's most important public, cultural and scholarly institutions and deeply appreciative that the Amherst College he leaves behind is as strong and well positioned for the future as it ever has been.”
Greg Call, dean of the faculty, noted how much he admires Marx’s aspirations for the college and his genuine concern for all members of the college community. “No matter the challenge, Tony seeks the best for Amherst and asks each of us to give our best in return. I will miss dearly his warmth and keen wit, which have made our daily partnership a pleasure.”
Zeitlin said a presidential search committee will be formed in the next few weeks and will include trustees, faculty, students, alumni and staff.
Marx was professor of undergraduate studies of political science at Columbia University when Amherst’s Board of Trustees elected him the 18th president of Amherst College.
He succeeded President Tom Gerety, who resigned in 2003 after leading Amherst for nine years. Marx also joined the Amherst faculty at that time as professor of political science, and he has continued teaching throughout his presidency, including a course this semester titled “Debates in Private American Higher Education.”
During Marx’s tenure, Amherst has strengthened its resources in many areas, despite the economic downturn. In October 2008, President Marx announced the $425 million Lives of Consequence comprehensive campaign to extend Amherst's mission well into the future. The campaign, which is 90 percent toward its stated goal, supports financial aid, investments in the size and scope of the faculty, student research and service experiences and the updating of academic facilities.
The name Lives of Consequence comes from the school’s mission statement, which reads, in part: “Amherst College educates men and women of exceptional potential from all backgrounds so that they may seek, value and advance knowledge, engage the world around them and lead principled lives of consequence.”
In announcing his decision to take on the presidency of the New York Public Library, Marx cited its status as “New York’s City’s preeminent educational institution that is free and open to all.”
“Everything I have done and learned leads me in this direction—to pursue in a new way the ideals we have forged together,” he said. “I am honored to take up my new position in the Library as an act of faith in those ideals, for I can think of no more important basis for me or any of us to decide about new challenges.”
During Marx’s tenure, the college has completed the first phase of its residential master plan. In all, 13 student residences have been renovated or constructed, and a new earth sciences building and natural history museum was built to support curricular expansion in the sciences and house the college’s significant natural history collections. Amherst also constructed a co-generation plant as part of campus-wide efforts to help the college become more energy-efficient and environmentally responsible.
Following the economic downturn in 2008, during which Amherst’s endowment lost roughly 20 percent of its value, Marx led the campus in a deliberative and inclusive process of controlling growth in the college’s budget. In contrast to most of its peers, Amherst adjusted its projected budgets without implementing mass staff layoffs and while sustaining its progressive financial aid policies.
Marx previously served for 13 years on the faculty at Columbia University, where he was professor and director of undergraduate studies of political science. During his last year at Columbia, he served as director of the Wilson National Fellowship Foundation’s early college high school initiative, which establishes model public high schools as partnerships between school systems and universities. He founded the Columbia urban educators program, a public school teacher recruitment and training partnership.
In the 1980s, he helped found Khanya College, a South African secondary school that has prepared more than 1,000 black students for university.
Marx attended Wesleyan and Yale, where he graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. degree in 1981. He received his M.P.A. degree from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University in 1986, then earned M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Princeton in 1987 and 1990. He is married to Karen Barkey, professor of sociology and history at Columbia University. They have one daughter, Anna-Claire, and one son, Joshua.