“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.
“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.
“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
“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.