Biddy Martin was elected the 19th president of Amherst College in June 2011.
She had served as chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison since 2008 and as Cornell University’s provost from 2000 to 2008.
Martin was raised outside of Lynchburg, Va., in rural Campbell County, and graduated as valedictorian from Brookville High School. A graduate of the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., where she majored in English literature and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Martin earned an M.A. in German literature from Middlebury College’s program in Mainz, Germany, and her Ph.D. in German literature, in 1985, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
A distinguished scholar of German studies and the author of numerous articles and two books—one on a literary and cultural figure in the Freud circle, Lou Andreas-Salomé, and a second on gender theory—Martin served on the faculty of Cornell University for more than two decades. She began as an assistant professor of German studies and women’s studies, earned tenure in 1991, and eventually served as chair of the German studies department, senior associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences and provost from 2000 to 2008. In the latter position, Martin was the president’s first deputy officer and reported to the president as Cornell’s chief educational officer and chief operating officer.
Martin was Cornell’s longest-serving provost, and accomplishments during her term included overseeing the development of a $150 million life sciences building, increasing the stature of humanities research and education, implementing a sweeping financial aid initiative that replaced need-based loans with grants for all undergraduate students from families with incomes under $75,000 and developing the university’s fundraising priorities for its $4 billion capital campaign.
As chancellor at UW-Madison, Martin led successful initiatives to increase need-based financial aid, improve undergraduate education and enhance research. The Madison Initiative for Undergraduates promoted student advising, innovations in undergraduate programs and faculty diversity. Martin also spearheaded an effort to gain greater operating flexibility and increased autonomy for Wisconsin’s flagship campus.
In October 2012, Martin was inducted into the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Earlier that year, she was awarded an Honorary Degree from the College of William & Mary. She received a second Honorary Degree from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 2014.