President Gerety announces plan to step down

President Gerety announced May 2 that he will resign in June 2003 after nine years as the head of the college.

In a letter to the campus community Gerety said, "Many of the projects that we launched during my tenure are either completed or nearing completion: the comprehensive campaign, the strengthening of fiscal and fundraising disciplines, the reorganizing of orientation and our residential arrangements, the renewal of our academic a
nd athletic facilities, reforms in athletics and in our own admissions, the improvements to our support of research and teaching." Noting that academic and architectural planning should be completed within the next year, Gerety added, "Amherst College is exceptionally strong. It is a good time to make the transition from one president to the next."

Amos B. Hostetter Jr. '58, chairman of the Trustees, said, "Tom has led Amherst for nearly a decade with remarkable energy and generosity. He has shown himself to be a caring president, genuinely committed to Amherst College and to the people who make up the Amherst community. While securing the college's intellectual and financial foundations, he has helped build a talented faculty, a lively and outstanding student body, and a strong staff. He has cared for Amherst well." Along with praising Gerety's leadership, under it, he said, the college has been notably "peaceable."

A presidential search committee was formed almost immediately. Chaired by Hostetter, it includes Trustees, faculty, students, staff and alumni. Hostetter said the group is "going to go to work diligently and quickly and try to fill a big, big hole."

Gerety was president and a professor of philosophy at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., when Amherst's Trustees elected him the 17th president of Amherst in 1994. He succeeded Peter R. Pouncey, who resigned after leading Amherst for 10 years. Gerety also joined the Amherst faculty at that time as professor of philosophy, and he has continued teaching throughout his presidency.

During Gerety's tenure, Amherst has strengthened its resources in many areas. The Amherst College Campaign, a five-year effort to raise $200 million for the college's most important priorities, reached its goal a year ahead of schedule, concluding in June 2001 with nearly $270 million in gifts and pledges to support faculty and academic programs, financial aid and student programs, facilities and the endowment. Since 1994, the endowment has nearly tripled, growing from $332 million to nearly a billion dollars. Most of the college's academic and athletic buildings have been renovated in the past five years; a new Life Sciences Building opened in 1996, and a new Experimental Theater was built in 1998.

Long one of the most selective colleges in the nation, Amherst in recent years has strengthened its admission standards and renewed an emphasis on diversity in its student body. Nearly 35 percent of the current first-year class are students of color. Amherst has retained its commitment to need-blind admission and strengthened its financial aid programs. More than half of the students receive some form of financial aid. Working with the New England Small College Athletic Conference, Gerety and other presidents took steps to tighten the standards of competitive athletic recruiting.

Early in his administration, Gerety sought successfully to combine two freshman orientation calendars—one for students of color, the other for all students—into a single all-college program.

In the past year the college has made a commitment to enhance student life by developing plans to house all first-year students in dormitories around the main quadrangle. Over the next seven years the college will begin construction on new dormitories and undertake major renovations of several existing dorms.

Gerety holds four academic degrees, all from Yale University. He earned his bachelor's degree there in 1969, received a master's in philosophy in 1974, and in 1976 earned both a Ph.D. in philosophy and a doctor of laws degree. Before coming to Amherst he was president and professor of philosophy at Trinity College from 1989 to 1994. Before that, he had taught at three other universities: The Illinois Institute of Technology, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Cincinnati where he was dean of the college of law.

Gerety said in his letter to the college community that "the Amherst presidency is the most challenging and rewarding job that I have ever held." He said that after leaving Amherst he looks forward to following up on other interests that he has pursued over the years, perhaps in the areas of humanitarian work, conservation or urban policy.