The weekend’s culminating dinner took place in a transformed Coolidge Cage, where Greg Brown ’98 led the Choral Society.

How do you launch a campaign built on Promise—the most ambitious such effort the College has ever undertaken? One that aims to raise $625 million in five years and to use those funds to not only support faculty but keep up with surging student interests?

If you’re launching Promise: The Campaign for Amherst’s Third Century, you do it with a weekend of sessions—student-run ones, of course—that feature groundbreaking research into ultracold atoms, innovative projects in the humanities, experiential learning and advanced archival work.

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Banner on campus promoting the Promise Campaign
You do it with a dinner in a transformed Coolidge Cage—a purple-hued tribute to student talent and achievements. A dinner that features remarks by President Biddy Martin and campaign co-chairs Ted Beneski ’78, P’08, Doug Grissom ’89, P’22 and Chris Noyer Seaver ’81, P’11, P’14.

You do it with an interview in Johnson Chapel between Martin and outgoing board of trustees chair Cullen Murphy ’74, which begins with a discussion of the liberal arts and concludes with a philosophical discussion of science and technology.

Most of all, you do it with the help of some very generous people, such as General Atlantic CEO
William E. Ford ’83, P’13, an economics major, for whom a residence (formerly Greenway A) has been named and about whom Murphy said at the dorm dedication, “Apart from requesting salt and pepper, I’ve never heard Bill ask for something for himself.”

Or the anonymous graduate who donated $100 million—equaling the largest gift Amherst has ever received. This gift will be used as a challenge, providing matching funds when other donors support campaign priorities at significant levels.

For a campaign that has already raised $341 million in commitments, including the $100 million gift, the launch is an important step, but only an early one.

After all, this campaign carries big burdens, including supporting the new Science Center and faculty hiring, and keeping up with student interest in STEM, which has surged in the past decade. It will also create support for financial aid, as well as opportunities for students to do independent research and participate in course-related international travel.

One of the student-faculty panels that took place over the weekend.

As Martin notes, Promise will “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.”

What could be more Promising than that?


The Promise Priorities

  1. Attracting and supporting outstanding students and faculty through financial aid, endowed professorships and other initiatives
  2. Meeting student need in the sciences and math
  3. Promoting innovation in teaching and learning
  4. Providing critical facilities, including a new home for the Center for Teaching and Learning, as well as athletic and social spaces on campus
  5. Creating a stronger sense of community and belonging by finding meaningful, intentional ways to bring together students, staff and faculty
  6. Supporting the Annual Fund, which provides unrestricted funds for all campaign priorities

Photo Credits: Panel & performance: Takudzwa Tapfuma ’17; lamppost: Chattman Photography