In the fall of 2013, they came to campus, traveling from 40 U.S. states and territories and 30 countries. Among them were junior Olympians, Irish fiddle players and calligraphers. In the spring of 2017 they graduated, dispersing around the country and world to chase academic, professional and personal dreams. While their passions are as varied as they were four years ago, the newest alumni created an uncommonly strong bond during their time at Amherst.
The class of 2017 built a sense of community that benefitted the entire campus—including the Senior Class Gift program, in which the class participated at an unusually high rate. Their time at Amherst mattered, both to them and to the College, and for the class of 2017, it was the people who mattered most.
In their own words, the members of the Senior Class Gift Committee explain why they gave.
“In addition to an exceptional education, Amherst has truly given me experiences I will cherish forever. I gave so more students can have the opportunity to experience Amherst and everything it has to offer.” -- Jessica Maposa ’17 (Majors: Architectural studies and law, jurisprudence and social thought; Activities: Women’s and Gender Center, Center for Community Engagement, Engagement Fellow for Advancement)
“As a student on financial aid, the generosity of alumni was pivotal to my education. Amherst is a stepping-stone for many low-income students, and giving back to Amherst is one way in which I can help future students who are just like me.” --Aleks Merkovich ’17 (Majors: Biology and psychology; Activities: Resident counselor, Route 9 (a cappella group), Choral Society, Amherst Dance, intramural sports, biology research assistant)
“I was incredibly excited to join the Amherst College network, as I knew I would gain mentors, teammates and supporters. My role as an Amherst alum includes acting as a mentor, donor and supporter of current Amherst students. The monetary gift we donated as a class reflects our appreciation for the College over the past four years, and our desire to fund continued change. My experiences at Amherst are unforgettable, and I think my participation in the Amherst Senior Gift tradition will help fund unforgettable experiences for future Amherst College students.” --Sydney Watts ’17 (Major: Psychology; Activities: Field hockey, Student Housing Advisory Committee, Student Athletic Advisory Committee president)
“In my commencement speech I spoke of how the Amherst community carried me through some of the most difficult times in my life. It was not just praise that I intended. I intended to offer comfort to my fellow graduates that the community we made here will continue to be with us. I also intended a call to action; a strong community can exist for students, especially students from marginalized backgrounds like myself. I hoped that my experience would inspire others to foster that community for all students. I give because of the Amherst community that, to this day, has covered me in so much love that sometimes I feel like I cannot hold it all. I give because I believe the College still has a long way to go in supporting its students of marginalized identities. I give because I believe in the potential of this community to hold all its members as tenderly and as attentively as I have been held.” --Amir Hall ’17 (Major: English; Activities: Glee Club, a cappella, Black Student Union, African and Caribbean Students’ Union, jobs at Frost Library and Dining Services, commencement speaker)
“Looking back on my four years at Amherst, I am struck by how much my interests and aspirations have changed as a result of my liberal arts education. More than helping me discover new passions, Amherst taught me to value education for its own sake, not as a stepping-stone to a career path, but as an experience that can fundamentally change the way one sees the world. I could never have had such a transformative experience were it not for the College’s commitment to caring for and about its students, and after having received so much from my alma mater, it felt important that I give something back. Thus, my Senior Gift is more than a monetary contribution: It represents my appreciation for Amherst and my implicit desire for the school to continue growing in a way that best supports the diverse body of students that flows through it.” -- Sam Chen’17 (Major: Anthropology with pre-med; Activities: Men’s lacrosse, Amherst College Military Association, Project Salud, resident “Amherst has given me so many amazing opportunities that I could never have found at another college. From the classes that changed my perspective and worldview to friendships that have carried me through tough moments, Amherst has molded me into a better version of myself. Most importantly, Amherst helped me to realize my own capabilities as a leader, a realization that has helped shape my future life path. As a student on financial aid, none of this would have been possible without the generosity of the College and its incredible alumni. When it came time for me to make a gift, it was a no-brainer! I was glad to do my part to give another student a chance to have an Amherst College education." --Karen Blake ’17 (Major: Sociology; Activities: Student body president, resident counselor, Association of Amherst Students senator, women’s track)
“Amherst provided me not only with an amazing and challenging education but also with lifelong lessons and friendships. I give to Amherst because I hope Amherst continues to provide these opportunities for other students. The work that Amherst does in growing compassionate and intelligent leaders is increasingly important in this world—and is only possible through our future contributions and support.” --Jeremy Paula ’17 (Majors: Psychology, sociology; Activities: Resident counselor, Student Health Educator)
With few exceptions, the Senior Class Gift program has run each year since the 1930s. This student-led effort allows each class to honor its time at Amherst and mark the transition from students to alumni with a gift to the Alumni Fund.