In 2015, Julie Whitney ’90 established the Whitney Family Fund for Student Aid in memory of her father, Thomas P. Whitney ’37, and her grandfather, Herbert Whitney 1899. The endowed fund, administered by the Dean of Financial Aid, will support lower-income Amherst College students with startup and emergency needs and help prepare them for campus life at Amherst.
Why did you choose to attend Amherst?
I have a long family history at Amherst; both my father and my grandfather are graduates. My father was an ardent Amherst supporter, and his love of the College was infectious — I chose to attend Amherst because of it. Once there, I began to understand why he felt Amherst was such a special place, and I realized what a gift it was to be there.
What was your favorite class?
I enjoyed all the usual favorites with Professors Rabinowitz, Sarat and Maraniss, but I also particularly remember a class I took in introductory physics for non-science majors. Although I had been terrified of science ever since I very nearly failed chemistry in high school, this professor explained the major theories of physics in a way that even I could understand. He cured my science phobia, and that made me feel more comfortable venturing outside my academic comfort zone at Amherst.
How did Amherst prepare you for your future?
Amherst provides an educational foundation—the ability to read, write and think critically—that has been indispensable in my career, but also in so many other aspects of life. There was such an emphasis on writing at Amherst, and when I pursued my J.D., that part of law school didn’t intimidate me as it did others. Amherst also taught me a lot about how to listen to other opinions and perspectives, be respectful of them, and yet still come to my own conclusions.
What motivated you to create the Whitney Family Fund for Student Aid?
Amherst has done a very good job in recent years of opening its doors to all students regardless of their ability to pay. But the College also has a responsibility to help students once they get here so that they can succeed. Some students may arrive without bedding, school supplies or even warm clothes. Or a student from another country might need to get home during the year for a family emergency. I wanted to support students in these sometimes overlooked areas that seem small but can have a substantial impact on their time at the College.
I was fortunate in that I never had to worry about my basic needs being met while at Amherst, and this is a way to express my gratitude for that. This fund is also something I can continue to support, and that my children might eventually choose to contribute to as they get older.