“There will always be people who are stronger, faster and smarter, but in college I learned that you can excel by learning how to think well, make good decisions and understand your limitations. ” Surgeon James E. Bates ‘86 in the newest Amherst magazine.
“I look forward to an America which will steadily raise the standards of artistic accomplishment and which will steadily enlarge cultural opportunities for all of our citizens.” President John F. Kennedy, speaking at Amherst on Oct. 26, 1963. He would have been 100 on May 29, 1917.
Each new graduate receives a Conway Cane. This 19th-century Amherst tradition was revived and reshaped by the class of 2003 to celebrate class unity and spirit. Sunday, May 21: Amherst’s 196th Commencement.
NOTE: Learn more about how the tradition of the Conway Canes during Commencement returned to Amherst College in 2003.
“A book, a good book, a book worth dusting off, is a challenge. It’s a full workout for your mind and soul.” Dylan Driscoll ’14, pro baseball player in Sweden and Belgium, and startup marketing director, on the value of having a little dust on your bookshelf.
“In the scientific world, people are judged by the content of their ideas. Advances are made with new insights, but the final arbitrator of any point of view are experiments that seek the unbiased truth.” Steven Chu, former secretary of energy and one of six people who will receive an honorary doctorate at Amherst’s Commencement.
“My comfort with the gnarly wreckage of life, my comfort with discomfort, is the most important ingredient in my work and in the work of people I admire.” Screenwriter and Producer Susannah Grant ’84, a member of the College’s Board of Trustees, recently described her journey from Amherst to Hollywood, and the real job of any artist.
“Public art is shown in the context of complete democracy. There is full access, and that can be very liberating.” Brooke Kamin Rapaport ’84 oversees the selection, production and realization of installations in New York’s Madison Square Park.
“The first question asked by the human mind, and which also marks the mind’s progress in all its stages, is the question, ‘Why.’” Julius Hawley Seelye, Amherst President, 1876-1890.
“I am a political scientist who, in effect, ends up doing history in the form of biography.” William Taubman, the Bertrand Snell Professor of Political Science, Emeritus. Taubman’s highly anticipated biography of Mikhail Gorbachev will be published this year.
NOTE 1: Taubman won a 2004 Pulitzer Prize for his biography of Nikita Khrushchev.
NOTE 2: 10 books on leadership to read in 2017 —The Washington Post.
“There's no such thing as a conflict that cannot be ended. Conflicts are created, conducted and sustained by human beings. They can be ended by human beings.” George Mitchell, former U.S. Senate majority leader will discuss “Trump’s First 100 Days—Challenges and Opportunities” on Monday, April 3.
“To those who simply want to tweet the revolution, we appreciate that, but we are challenging people to go beyond that.” Cornell William Brooks. Speaking in Johnson Chapel, NAACP president Cornell William Brooks urged students to choose causes that will resonate in the long-term, not just in the moment.
“There are still some places that have escaped the direct touch of man, and those are the areas that are of interest to people like me.” Kelvin Chen ’16 traveled to remote Kasatochi Island to study biogeography.
“And how shall one name that movement which is in accord with the most beautiful human form? ... I would name it the Dance.” Isadora Duncan, dancer. Sarah Olsen, visiting assistant professor of classics, will discuss dance in ancient Greek tragedies and the work of Isadora Duncan as part of “Reimagining the Greeks,” a Theater & Dance conference March 23-25.
“Knowledge of Islam and, more broadly, knowledge of other cultural and religious traditions, is of paramount importance.” Tariq Jaffer, associate professor of religion, on his course Asian Languages and Civilizations 285, Religion 285: “The Quran and Its Controversies.”
NOTE: “The Quran and Its Controversies” is one of 126 courses available to Amherst students for the first time this year.
“We are called to listen to the music, to listen to each other, to listen from the other’s perspective.” George Mathew is determined that his concerts be not simply of our time but an influence for good within it. Photo credit: Chris Lee.
“Even though I didn’t know it, the idea for The Common started when I was a student at Amherst.” Jennifer Acker ’00. Acker founded The Common and its literary internship program, which mentors Amherst students in all aspects of publishing, from the first reads to the printed volume and related public programming.
“Now more than ever we need the voices of artists, in fiction and nonfiction, poetry on the page and in spoken word, and other expressive forms.” Martha Umphrey, professor of law, jurisprudence and social thought and director of the Center for Humanistic Inquiry. Professor Martha Umphrey during opening remarks of Amherst’s second annual literary festival.
“Once a president gets to the White House, the only audience that is left that really matters is history.” Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin will speak at Amherst on March 4 at 10 a.m. in Johnson Chapel as part of the College’s annual literary festival.
“Time comes to us softly, slowly. It sits beside us for a while. Then, long before we are ready, it moves on.” Author Jacqueline Woodson in her young adult novel If You Come Softly.
NOTE: As part of Amherst’s annual literary festival, Pamela Paul, editor of the New York Times Book Review will host a conversation with 2016 National Book Award fiction finalists Woodson (Another Brooklyn) and Chris Bachelder The Throwback Special), at 7:30 p.m. on March 2.
“On the battlefields nobody is very interested in where the plasma comes from when they are hurt.” Dr. Charles Drew ’26 discovered the chemical method for preserving blood and went on to direct the first American Blood Bank. A surgeon, he fought against policies that refused or segregated blood donated by African Americans.
NOTE: A residence hall at Amherst, the Charles Drew Memorial Culture House, is named in his honor.
“Every moment happens twice: inside and outside, and they are two different histories.” Author Zadie Smith in her novel White Teeth. Smith will headline Amherst’s annual literary festival on March 3 at 7:30 p.m. in Johnson Chapel
“Without education, there is no hope for our people and without hope, our future is lost.” Charles Hamilton Houston. Class of 1915, was the legal architect of Brown v. Board of Education
“Rejecting notions of speech as politics, and ideals as action, Martin Luther King Jr. argued that all Americans—both white and black—were required to do much more than declare our values.” Mary Hicks, assistant professor of black studies and history, on Martin Luther King Jr.
“Together with our democratic protections of personal liberty, our schools draw extraordinary people to our shores.” President Carolyn A. "Biddy" Martin. From a letter by President Martin to John F. Kelly, Secretary of Homeland Security.
“What sunrises and sunsets do we here witness; and what a multitude of permutations and combinations pass before us during the day, as we watch from hour to hour, one of the loveliest landscapes of New England.” Edward Hitchcock (1793-1864) was the first state geologist of Massachusetts and the third President of Amherst College.
Note: The Edward and Orra White Hitchcock Papers contain correspondence, drawings, legal documents, sermons, drafts of published and unpublished works, printed articles, autographs, artwork, and images relating to the professional activities and some of the personal life of Edward Hitchcock, Orra White Hitchcock, and their family.
Serving 4,000 meals daily, Valentine Dining Hall’s 28-day food cycle includes more than 600 recipes involving roughly 2,000 ingredients, many of which come from local farms.
Note: Valentine Hall is officially going trayless! Motivated by the need to save water during the drought, student group - Green Amherst Project (GAP) collected over 650 student signatures requesting that Val become a trayless dining facility. The Offices of Environmental Sustainability and Dining Services then collected both written and in person feedback on the issue from over 600 community members and the decision was made to make the move to trayless. Starting the second week of interterm, Valentine Hall became a trayless dining facility. Learn more.
“To overlook the rich diversity of experiences within first-generation college students is to base policy on only a partial picture.” Sociologist Anthony Jack ’07, the newest Wade Fellow at Amherst, spoke about the factors that influence undergraduates’ sense of belonging at elite colleges and their acquisition of cultural and social capital. [Read more]
“When the history of English settlement is discussed, the Native perspective is often left out of the picture.” Christopher Tamasi ’15. Tamasi, in an article about the American Studies course “Global Valley,” in which students study local history from multiple perspectives.
“At no point did I give up.” Kimmie Weeks ’05 grew up in Liberia during the country’s first civil war. In 2011, at age 29, he became the youngest person ever to receive an honorary degree from Amherst.
“In the spirit of the liberal arts, we want to create a museum that sparks the imagination and inspires debate.” David Little, Director of Amherst’s Mead Art Museum.
Footnote: After two months of renovations, the museum unveiled six new exhibitions and installations.
“When the smoke cleared from my career as an orthopedic spine surgeon, my long, lingering liberal arts education bubbled up, providing me with interests in classical music, poetry and community service.” Clyde L. Nash, ’55, orthopedic surgeon; majored in economics at Amherst, on the impact of a liberal arts education.
Footnote: Learn more about a liberal arts education at Amherst College.
“Global economics trumped domestic politics.” Historian Matthew Karp ’03, whose book “This Vast Southern Empire: Slaveholders at the Helm of American Foreign Policy” casts doubt on popularly held views, shedding new light on America on the eve of the Civil War.
“There’s a cruel irony to be found here: Surfing at once engenders a deep love of the seaside and a lustful resentment for it.” Tony Andrews ’13, won a Film and Media Studies award for his senior thesis documentary film about surfing subculture in Newport, R.I.
Footnote: Andrews recently published an essay about surfing in The Inertia.
“Our influence on others happens in fleeting moments and at unexpected times.Our influence on others happens in fleeting moments and at unexpected times.” Mark Silver ’93 writing in Amherst magazine about the late Professor Hugh Hawkins.
Footnote: In his own handwriting, Professor Hawkins describes a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, highlighted in a 2012 blog post titled "A Civil Rights Summer in the South," by Colleen O'Connor ’11.
“The only way you will advance and make progress on an intellectual level is by testing your perspectives against the strongest alternative viewpoints.” Ross Dothat, New York Times columnist, on civil discourse in an exclusive interview for Amherst. Douthat gave a talk on campus called “American Conservatism and Donald Trump.”
“We can set an example of community characterized by openness and respect, freedom with responsibility, and politics inflected by poetry. ” Amherst College President Biddy Martin, speaking to the community about Amherst’s enduring values.
“We are all more than our inheritance and appearance.” W. Ralph Eubanks, in an essay for the new issue of Amherst’s literary magazine, The Common
Footnote: W. Ralph Eubanks: American author, journalist, professor, public speaker, and business executive. From 1995 until May 2013 he was the Director of Publishing of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
“Some doctors know how to say, ‘I don’t know.’ But their ranks are too small.” Aaron ’94, American pediatrician and professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine.
Footnote: In his career as a pediatrician and writer, he makes frequent use of an Amherst course in law, jurisprudence and social thought.
“We like to say that the liberal arts gives students the freedom to retool themselves, to change paths. The same goes for faculty members.” Javier Corvales, professor of political science, speaking about LGBT Rights in Latin America.
“Everyone must honestly admit to and understand the extent to which something is wrong before we can begin to repair.” Sophie Currin ’17, English and economics major. Currin's response to the ongoing “locker room" dialogue was recently published on the Huffington Post website.
“Art isn’t an extracurricular activity. It’s a place where you can find yourself.” Justin Kimball, professor of art. Kimball’s photography courses teach students to examine the concept of what it means to be human in the world today.
Footnote: Kimball is the author of a forthcoming book of photography, Elegy.
“With Bob Dylan’s music playing softly, my dad faded away.” Romen Borsellino ’12. In his college admission essay, published by Amherst Magazine in 2008, Romen Borsellino ’12 wrote about the death of his father and their shared love for Bob Dylan.
Footnote: On Thursday, October 13, 2016, Bob Dylan was awarded a Nobel Prize in Literature.
“Ebola was a huge wake-up call in terms of how globally prepared we are to handle an epidemic, and how interconnected our world is.” Inger Damon ’84, Director of the Division of High-Consequence Pathogens and Pathology at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Damon led the 2014 Ebola response in West Africa for the Centers for Disease Control.
“The underwater cables are perhaps the most poetic part of the Internet.” Andrew Blum ’99, English major. An interview with author and journalist Andrew Blum about his book Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet, the first book-length look at the physical heart of the Internet itself.
“Access to higher education is one of the surest ways to provide students from all backgrounds a ladder to success.” Chris Coons ‘85 is a U.S. Senator from Delaware and was a chemistry major at Amherst.
Footnote: Amherst magazine sent a reporter to spend a day with Coons in 2011 when he was a freshman senator in Joe Biden’s old seat.
“Art is not only part of history—even a living history—it is part of and makes community, it is part of and makes family.” Kellie Jones ’81, art historian and curator, one of 23 new recipients of a MacArthur “genius grant,” from her 2011 book, Energy / Experimentation: Black Art and Abstraction, 1964-1980.
“The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience.” Emily Dickinson, poet. As part of the Amherst Poetry Festival Sept. 15-17, fans will read all 1,789 of Emily Dickinson’s poems in the home and landscape where she wrote them. Dickinson’s home, now the Emily Dickinson Museum, was built in 1813 by her grandfather Samuel Fowler Dickinson, a founder of Amherst College.
“I'm so amazed at the degree to which people can suffer, but at the same time, people's capacity to heal.” Tara Neelakantappa Safronoff ’97, , widow of 9/11 victim Brock Safronoff ’97. She spoke to Amherst magazine 10 years after the World Trade Center attacks. FOOTNOTE: Amherst remembers the four alumni lost on 9/11: Frederick C. Rimmele III ’90, Brock Safronoff ’97 and Maurita Tam ’01.
Frost Library, named after poet Robert Frost, who taught at Amherst for many years, holds more than 1.5 million volumes and nearly 600,000 other media materials, including 330,400 e-books.
FOOTNOTE: On Oct. 26, 1963, in one of his last public appearances before his assassination, President John F. Kennedy visited campus to receive an honorary degree and to speak at the groundbreaking of the library.
“My process was to work backward from that thousand-word fever-dream ending.” Dan Cluchey ’08. In this interview, a former Obama administration speechwriter discusses the inspiration and creative process that went into writing a novel.
“When Bob told me about the day he was injured, he called it his second birthday.” Mark R. Rigg ’89. In the new Amherst magazine, Rigg shares his point of view about how a Amherst experience forged an unusual friendship in “A College in Common."
The Amherst College Wildlife Sanctuary includes approximately 500 acres in a diverse collection of open fields (both actively maintained and unmanaged), wetlands, flood plain woods, river, upland woods, plantation pines, and ponds—and is an important place for both recreation and research.
“HIV tricks our cells into being little virus factories.” Christopher ’12. Ph.D. candidate in molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale; majored in biochemistry at Amherst. In the lab, Lim studies how HIV evades the defenses of the human body. Outside, he's making STEM a bigger tent.
“I kept asking that why question. I've always thought that the center of the liberal arts is that three-letter word.” Andrew Hacker ’51, professor emeritus in the department of political science at Queens College in New York. Hacker—whose political science research relies heavily on the use of numbers—went to the math department at Queens College a few years ago and asked if he could teach, experimentally, one of the introductory courses. He went on to write a book about math education.
“The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you.” David Foster Wallace ’85, from his novel Infinite Jest. Novelist, short story writer, and essayist, as well as a professor of English and creative writing, Wallace majored in English and Philosophy at Amherst. Wallace was a towering figure in modern literature. In 1999, three years after Infinite Jest was published, he did an interview-by-mail with Amherst magazine.
“A people without a thorough knowledge of roots and history cannot move into the future, cannot rest in the proper chair of life.” Sonia Sanchez, Poet, activist and scholar who taught at Amherst from 1972 to 1975 and was the first chair of the Black Studies department.
“My favorite place on campus was Charles Drew Memorial African American Theme House. While we lived there, we were family.” Lynettra Artis ’05. #AlwaysAmherst. The Annual Fund closes at 11:59 p.m. PDT on Thursday, June 30th. Help us hit our goal.
“The addition of gender opened up practically every known psychological principle to question.” Professor Rose Olver was the L. Stanton Williams ‘41 Professor of Psychology and Sexuality, Women’s and Gender Studies, Emerita. The late Professor Olver was the first woman hired into a tenure-track position at Amherst.
“The pastoral—the seemingly idyllic space—has always been defined by its own conflicted edges.” Tess Taylor ’00, author of The Forage House and Work & Days. In Amherst magazine, Taylor told the story behind her new book of poems.
“Storytelling is a landscape, and tragedy is comedy is drama. It simply depends on how you frame what you're seeing.” Lauren Groff, ′01. This is a line from Groff’s novel Fates and Furies, a 2015 National Book Award finalist. Read the book review in Amherst magazine.
“He was arming me / with shoes to wear, with fury, feathers, flight.” Kirun Kapur ’97 from her book of poetry, Visiting Indira Gandhi’s Palmist. Tess Taylor ’00, the on-air poetry reviewer for NPR’s All Things Considered, reviewed Kapur’s debut book of poetry in the Fall 2015 Amherst magazine.
“The soul without imagination is what an observatory would be without a telescope.” Henry Ward Beecher, Class of 1834. American Congregationalist clergyman, social reformer, speaker and younger brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe. Beecher was once as well-known as Oprah Winfrey is today. Debby Applegate ’89 won a Pulitzer Prize for her biography of the famous minister.
“I have seen the best and worst of what companies can do–and still believe that business can be a force for good.” Christine Bader ’93, Director of Social Responsibility at Amazon. Bader wrote The Evolution of a Corporate Idealist: When Girl Meets Oil, which was a featured book in the Amherst Reads book club.
“We knew our dad’s ship was somewhere way up in the North Pacific, but where do you start?” John Abele ’59. American businessman and the co-founder and a director of Boston Scientific, a medical device company. Abele last saw his father in 1942, just before Lt. Cmdr. Mannert L. Abele and the crew of the USS Grunion headed for war duty in the North Pacific. It took six decades to clear up the mystery of what happened to the crew.
“If there has ever been a time when we need to recognize the value of our own lives and the lives of others as of our own ... this is the time. ” Amherst President Biddy Martin, speaking to the Class of 2016 during her annual Commencement address. For videos, audio, speeches and photos from Amherst's 195th Commencement, please visit our Commencement web pages.
“How could any of us have changed our minds–really changed our minds–had we not lived amongst one another and eaten meals together?” Gregory Campeau ’11, History major; English teacher. Every year the seniors elect a classmate to deliver an address at Commencement. Campeau gave the address in 2011.
“Real learning and a real preparation for citizenship demand the intersection of different life stories and different sensibilities.” Frank Bruni, New York Times columnist, writing about Amherst receiving the $1 million Cooke Prize for Equity in Educational Excellence. Read the news story: Amherst College Awarded $1 Million Cooke Prize to Continue Work with Outstanding Low-Income Students.
“The poet is one of our best sources, one of the wells from which we Americans draw our national thought, our faith and our hope.” Emily Jordan Folger, ’32 Honorary doctorate; Co-founder of the Folger Shakespeare Library. Folger made this comment in a speech about her late husband, Henry Clay Folger, Class of 1879. The couple founded Amherst’s Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.. This month the Folger brings Shakespeare’s First Folio to Amherst as part of a national touring exhibition celebrating 400 years of Shakespeare.
“If music be the food of love, play on.” William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night. Amherst is the host site for the state of Massachusetts for a national traveling exhibition of Shakespeare’s First Folio, one of the world’s most treasured books.
“It was the culmination of all my childhood dreams to lead a shovel army into the mountains and extract literally thousands of gigantic bones.” Kirk Johnson ’82, Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and honorary degree recipient. Read “Out of the Shadow” from Amherst Magazine, which traces Johnson's path from Amherst College's geology department, to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Photo credit: @Denver Museum of Nature & Science.
“It is important for me to tell the story that my mother cannot tell for herself.” Tracey Jarrett ’11, of NBC news, on her reporting on HIV and AIDS. Julie Keith Jarrett ’81 died from AIDS in 1994. To imagine the person her mother might have become, Tracy Jarrett ’11 traveled from East Harlem to Cape Town to Chicago.
“If you want to fight terrorism, educate girls.” Amherst College welcomed Stavros Lambrinidi ’84, the European Union (EU) Special Representative for Human Rights on April 19, 2016 where he presented a keynote address titled: “Rights without Borders? Foreign Policy and Human Rights in Today’s European Union.”
“Witnessing a musical, having that experience, is in some ways like being in a liberal arts classroom at its best.” Sam Rosenblum, '16, political science, Jayson Paul ’16, physics and philosophy, and visiting director A. Scott Parry, sat down with President Biddy Martin to discuss the upcoming musical “Into the Woods.”
“Environmental protection doesn’t always turn out to be incompatible with development goals...” Katharine Sims, assistant professor of economics. Sims, and colleague Lawrence Douglas, James J. Grosfeld Professor of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought, were recently awarded esteemed Carnegie Fellowships to further their research.
“We are hungry for novels that tell our story, that tell the world what our ancestors endured a century ago.” Chris Bohjalian ’82, author of such books as The Sandcastle Girls, an award-winning novel about the Armenian Genocide. He is one of six who will receive honorary degrees at Amherst’s Commencement on May 22.
“Students need arguments that they can then amplify or argue against.” Catherine Epstein, Professor of History and Dean of the Faculty on her textbook about Nazi Germany. Epstein structured her 2014 textbook, Nazi Germany: Confronting the Myths, by setting up and then debunking various myths.
“From the first minute, it was clear that survival was in finding a creative way through it.”
Singer-songwriter Jonatha Brooke ’85 referring to her mother’s dementia. Brooke put her career on hold to care for her mother, who had dementia. Then she wrote a musical about it, My Mother Has Four Noses. It ran off-Broadway to critical acclaim.
“We’re not in a history-less vacuum but instead are rooted in a tradition of discussion.”
Michal Harmon ’16. Harmon spearheaded a faculty lecture series on Amherst’s history and defining characteristics inquiry, and progress.
“Difficulty need not foreshadow despair or defeat.” William Hastie ’25: lawyer, judge, educator, public official and advocate for the civil rights of African Americans. Hastie was the first African-American to serve as Govenor of the United States Virgin Islands, as a Federal judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals, and as a Federal appellate judge.
Students have access to 850+ courses offered on the Amherst College campus as well as 6,000 more via the Five College Consortium. Learn more about the Five College Consortium. All of the Five College campuses are connected via a free bus service, so students are never more than a half hour from arriving at another campus to take a class, join an intramural club or socialize.
“How do people grapple with memories and experiences of a world, of institutions and cultural values that suddenly no longer exist?” Aleksandra Burshteyn ’16: excerpt from Burshteyn's 2016 Thomas J. Watson Fellows application. Burshteyn is one of two Amherst College seniors who will embark on a global journey to learn their stories, as the College’s 2016 Thomas J. Watson Fellows.
“I want students to reach for the stuff that they're scared to write, the stuff that has really shaped their lives—and that’s harder than you would think.” Judith Frank: fiction writer; Eliza J. Clark Folger Professor of English. Frank, a two-time novelist, is professor of English, director of studies in the English department and Elizabeth W. Bruss Reader. She has taught the College’s Fiction Writing I course for many semesters.
“Friendship is a wildly underrated medication.” Anna Deavere Smith: playwright and actor; campus speaker: April 13. Amherst will welcome Smith to campus on April 13 for a program titled “Snapshots: Portraits of a World in Transition.” The event is free and open to the public.
“An educational system isn’t worth a great deal if it teaches young people how to make a living but doesn’t teach them how to make a life.” David Suzuki, ’58: science educator, environmental activist, and host of The Nature of Things with David Suzuki. This is one of the most well-known quotes by Suzuki, who has hosted Canada’s most popular nature program for many decades. For more about Suzuki, see this Amherst magazine profile.
“Everything will remind me of something now.” James Merrill ’47: Pulitzer prize-winning American poet. He became one of the greatest poets of his generation, but first, Merrill was an Amherst student, where he developed an obsession with memory and a transformative interest in Proust.
“To me, the starting place is the sense of wonder. And that can take you into science. It can take you into art. Other human beings are amazing and beautiful.” Mary Catherine Bateson: Dean of the Faculty and Professor of Anthropology, 1980-1987. On the Oct. 1, 2015 episode of “On Being,” Krista Tippett interviewed Mary Catherine Bateson (daughter of anthropologists Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson).