September 13, 2021
By now you will have seen President Martin’s announcement of her decision made over the summer that this academic year, her 11th as President of Amherst College, will be her final year in the role. The Board has accepted Biddy’s decision most reluctantly, with immeasurable gratitude for her inspired service to Amherst as our 19th President.
Over the past decade, Amherst has prospered in astonishing ways – simply not possible without Biddy’s gifted leadership, compassionate vision and unflagging commitment to Amherst’s mission and values. More Amherst College students have graduated during Biddy’s presidency than under any of her predecessors. She has supported the hiring of more faculty, likely enjoyed more student performances and sporting events (including five national championships!), overseen the completion of our largest building projects, raised more financial support for the College and beautified our campus with the Greenway not imagined even by Frederick Law Olmsted. The College is financially strong, our endowment has grown to record levels, with exceptional performance, and Biddy has modernized our administrative functions while maintaining tight fiscal discipline. In the throes of an epic pandemic, Biddy has kept our community safe, yet active and engaged. President Martin’s legacy reflects both extraordinary growth and exceptional care.
Biddy has been clear that this will not be a year to stand still. The trustees look forward to substantial progress across a wide range of College priorities. Working together, we will reach the final stages of Promise, The Campaign for Amherst’s Third Century (already our most successful campaign), conclude the design phase of the student center, continue our Climate Action Plan, build on the broad work underway to embrace a diverse and inclusive community and, I hope, gather with alumni, both on campus and closer to home. We will also find time to celebrate Biddy and enjoy Amherst’s Bicentennial.
I first met Biddy in February 2011 during the “scouting process” in the last presidential search. A subgroup of the search committee─including trustees, faculty, staff and a student─met with her in Washington, D.C. We walked in with only her paper CV; we walked out certain we had met our next president. From the first minute, Biddy was a standout in a field of extraordinary candidates. She has only surpassed the high expectations Amherst places on its presidents.
Soon we will commence the search for Amherst’s 20th president, about which more later. We approach this search from a position of wonderful strengths. The committee to be established by the Board will include trustees and members of the faculty, staff, and student body, each selected by their peers. As in the past, all members of the community will have opportunity for input. If we end up even close to the success of that February 2011 visit with Biddy Martin, Amherst will be fortunate, indeed, in the years to come.
A century ago President Alexander Meiklejohn clearly linked a liberal arts education with social contribution and global engagement. Biddy’s own life story, and her achievements as our President, remind us that an Amherst education, fundamentally rooted in the finest liberal arts intellectual tradition, is beautiful, but also vital and relevant.
I know you join me in expressing our deepest thanks to Biddy, and with every best wish for the coming year and beyond.
Andrew J. Nussbaum ’85
P.S. You can read the College’s press release here.