Cullen Murphy interviewing President Biddy Martin

(AMHERST, Mass., April 11, 2018) — Amherst College’s new comprehensive campaign, Promise: The Campaign for Amherst’s Third Century, launched publicly on Saturday evening, April 7, at the end of a full day of events that brought together students, faculty, staff, alumni, families and friends of the College. President Biddy Martin announced the goal of raising $625 million over the next five years at a gathering that featured student talent and recognized student achievements. Martin also announced a gift of $100 million by an anonymous graduate of the College, which matches the largest gift Amherst has ever received, and which will be used as a challenge, providing matching funds when other alumni of the College support campaign priorities at significant levels.

The campaign includes support for a new interdisciplinary science center, the biggest project in Amherst’s history, that is likely to be unsurpassed at a liberal arts college. With this center and additional faculty positions, Amherst will offer the best available undergraduate education in the mathematical, physical and biological sciences while also preserving the centrality at Amherst of the humanities, arts and social sciences.

The Promise campaign will enhance need-based scholarships and other forms of support for students, continuing Amherst’s commitment to removing barriers to access and ensuring equity in the opportunities students have once they are enrolled. It will allow the College to offer more opportunities for its students to do independent research, benefit from internships, participate in course-related international travel and become versatile thinkers prepared for a changing world of work.

According to President Martin, “The extraordinary generosity of our donors will allow Amherst to preserve and promote the enduring values of liberal arts education at Amherst—critical thinking, persistent questioning, freedom of inquiry and expression, joy in learning, friendship, and contribution to the larger good. With support for curricular and pedagogical experimentation, new approaches to career preparation, and more creative ways of building and enjoying community, the campaign will also allow Amherst to reinvent aspects of the liberal arts to meet the needs of current and future generations of students.” 

Promise is the most ambitious campaign the College has ever undertaken. A quiet phase of fundraising has resulted in $333 million in commitments thus far by Amherst’s legendarily supportive donors. Last year’s Annual Fund surpassed its financial goal by raising $10.7 million, the most in the College’s history, attracting 11,326 donors, and recording a sterling 51.8 percent participation rate among alumni. The 15 youngest alumni classes participated at a rate of 52 percent, which is remarkable given trends elsewhere.

“Amherst graduates understand that the College made a signal difference in the course of their lives,” said Cullen Murphy, class of 1974, the chair of the Board of Trustees. “It is a unifying fact that transcends our great range of age, career, background and outlook.”

The Promise campaign focuses on six priorities:

Attracting and Supporting Outstanding Students and Faculty

Amherst will continue to bring together faculty dedicated to the highest standards of intellectual inquiry and instruction, and the most promising students, whatever their financial need. Giving opportunities include endowed funding to name professorships in the humanities and humanistic social sciences and to support financial aid.

Meeting Student Need in the Sciences and Math

Over the last decade, student interest and enrollment in STEM fields have surged at Amherst. As the College opens its new Science Center, we will enhance our already excellent 8:1 student-faculty ratio by expanding the faculty. Giving opportunities include endowed support for new faculty and post-doctoral positions, and increased funding for faculty research.

Promoting Innovation in Teaching and Learning

Amherst faculty are redesigning courses and majors, considering more shared intellectual experiences, emphasizing writing and oral communication, and providing students with more opportunities to learn by doing: through research, field-based projects, international travel with faculty, career exploration and internships. Giving opportunities include support for these programs through a mix of endowment and start-up funding that will allow all students to take advantage of more than one of these opportunities.

Providing Critical Facilities

Some of our aspirations for Amherst’s third century depend on adjustments and expansions to our built environment. Giving opportunities include named spaces in the new Science Center, Greenway and Greenway Residence Halls, as well as improvements to other residence halls, the construction of new athletic and social spaces on campus, and a new home for the Center for Teaching and Learning and the Center for Writing and Public Speaking.

Creating a Stronger Sense of Community and Belonging

Amherst seeks to create a diverse intellectual community in which all three terms in that phrase are as meaningful as the middle one has always been. Giving opportunities include endowed funding for professional residential-life staff, support for student leadership and programming, athletics and wellness initiatives, the enhanced presence of outside speakers representing many points of view, visiting positions, and environmental-sustainability initiatives.

Supporting the Annual Fund

The Annual Fund has been key to the College’s excellence over time, allowing Amherst to apply resources as needed across campus. The Annual Fund will continue to play a vital role in our philanthropic health and, for most alumni, will remain one of the most popular ways to support Amherst. Giving opportunities include support for Annual Fund Scholars and gifts to the 1821 Society and Noah Webster Circle.

For more information on the Promise campaign, visit

Amherst College prepares students to use ideas to make a difference in the world. Since its founding, in 1821, in Western Massachusetts, Amherst has demonstrated steadfast confidence in the value of the liberal arts and the importance of critical thinking. Today, its financial aid program is among the most substantial in the nation, and its student body is among the most diverse. Small classes, an open curriculum and a singular focus on undergraduate education ensure that leading scholars engage daily with talented, curious students, equipping them for leadership in an increasingly global and complex world. The College will celebrate its bicentennial in 2021.