Susannah Grant, Class of 1984
Santa Monica, California
“What are the College's greatest opportunities and/or challenges, and how will your experiences and perspectives help inform your leadership as a trustee?”
Amherst: B.A., English ’84; Women’s rugby, ’81–’83; Chi Psi Fraternity
Further Education: M.F.A., American Film Institute Center for Advanced Film and Television Studies, 1993; Nicholl Fellowship, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 1993
Alumni Activities: 1821 Society member
Professional: Screenwriter/Producer/Director (1992–present); Writer: The 5th Wave (Sony, 2016), Confirmation (also produced, HBO, 2016), A Gifted Man (also produced, CBS TV 2011–2012), The Soloist (DreamWorks, 2009), Charlotte’s Web (Paramount, 2006), Catch and Release (also directed, Sony, 2006), In Her Shoes (Fox, 2005), Erin Brockovich (Universal, 2000), 28 Days (Sony, 2000), Ever After: A Cinderella Story (Fox, 1998), Party of Five (Fox TV, 1994–1996), Pocahontas (Disney, 1995). Awards and nominations: Erin Brockovich: Academy Award Nomination, BAFTA Nomination, Writers Guild of America Nomination, PEN Center USA West Award; Party of Five: Golden Globe Award, Humanitas Prize.
Community, Not-for-Profit and Volunteer Service: Board of Trustees, Street Poets Inc. (1997–present); Board of Trustees, The Secret City (2014–present); Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Nicholl Fellowship Committee (2001–2010); Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab (2010–present); Writers Guild Negotiating Committee (2007–2008); Member: Writers Guild of America, West; Directors Guild of America; Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
Personal: Married to Christopher Henrikson (Duke University ’89, American Film Institute ’93); two children: Olivia (15) and Arlo (13)
When I was a child, Amherst loomed large. Whenever my family drove up I-91, my dad (Jerry Grant ’54) would point east, over the treetops, toward the beloved college where he’d gotten his education, as had his father and uncles before him, and their fathers and uncles before them. They were Amherst men. Their houses were full of purple keychains and berets. They sang “Lord Jeffery Amherst” in harmony. From that vantage point, Amherst felt like the ﬁrmest of fixed institutions. Reliably there beyond the treetops—permanent and unchanging.
Then the ’70s rolled in, and like the rest of the country, Amherst did change, dramatically. I arrived as a freshman in 1980, a mere five years into coeducation. At the time, I thought this huge cultural shift—introducing women onto a campus that had been all-male for 150-plus years—signaled a unique period of active transition for the school. But 35 years later, as I watch Amherst (and every other college and university) continue to engage in the ongoing challenges of gender equity—along with many other crucially relevant social issues—I’ve come to realize that any vibrant academic institution is always—and should always be—in a period of active transition.
The cultural issues that are alive on campus today are real and significant, but by no means are they unique to Amherst, or even college. They reflect the dynamic shifting landscape of our culture and world. As an alumna, I’m both proud of and impressed by the leadership role the school has taken in these debates, turning significant challenge into opportunity. With its unparalleled tradition of intellectual rigor and social engagement, Amherst is emerging as an important voice in our national conversation—especially as other academic institutions tilt away from the liberal arts, toward more vocational, career-oriented academic education.These larger cultural questions—what we value; how we can become a more perfect union—are ones I’ve been examining on a professional level for 25 years. As a filmmaker, I’ve tried to dramatize the challenging issues of our day in ways that unite us rather than further divide us. It would be an honor to continue to do so in the context of the Amherst board.