Michael A. Elliott ’92 is the 20th president of Amherst College. A distinguished scholar of American literature and culture of the 19th and early 20th centuries, he has published widely on the history of fiction in the United States, Native American literature, and practices of public history. He holds a B.A. from Amherst College and an M.A. and Ph.D. in English and comparative literature from Columbia University.
Prior to being appointed to the presidency of Amherst in 2022, Elliott was a faculty member and administrator at Emory University for 24 years. From 2016 to 2022 he served as interim dean and then dean of Emory College of Arts and Sciences, the university’s core undergraduate division and home of the liberal arts. In this role, Elliott spearheaded critical work to establish race and inequality as a signature research and teaching strength of Emory and made significant advances in enhancing faculty diversity. He also increased support for undergraduate research and garnered substantial philanthropic support for need-based financial aid.
Elliott’s exceptional support of student success at Emory included developing The Liberal Arts Edge, a program that helps students articulate the value of their liberal arts experiences and connect with resources such as internships and undergraduate research opportunities. With a substantial grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, he co-created a Humanities Pathways initiative that comprehensively embedded post-college career planning into the curriculum to ensure that all students would feel prepared for professional success. Elliott’s focus on student engagement and development was recognized in 2020 when the graduating class awarded him the Brit Katz Senior Appreciation Award.
During his years in academic leadership, Elliott has maintained an active scholarly career. At Emory, he was the Charles Howard Candler Professor of English. His acclaimed book Custerology (University of Chicago Press, 2007) explores how George Armstrong Custer and the Indian Wars continue to be both a powerful symbol of America’s violent past and a crucial key to understanding the nation’s present. His earlier volume, The Culture Concept (University of Minnesota Press, 2002), traces the origins of the concept of “culture” that undergirds the evolution of cultural studies in the United States. In addition to these monographs, Elliott has co-edited two volumes in American literary studies and serves on the editorial board of The Norton Anthology of American Literature. His scholarship has been recognized with fellowships from Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Harvard’s Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History and the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia.
Raised in Tucson, Ariz., Elliott met his wife, Jennifer W. Mathews ʼ91, at Amherst. They have two children.