Director of Media Relations
AMHERST, Mass.—Poet Robert Frost was a member of the Amherst College faculty for more than 40 years; he taught at the liberal arts college on and off beginning in 1917 and until his death in 1963. The Amherst College library is named for him.
Now Amherst College will recognize Robert Frost’s role in the life of the college—and in American poetry—with a new sculpture on campus. Created by sculptor Penelope Jencks, the eight-ton granite likeness of Frost will be dedicated at 9 a.m. Saturday, June 2, during Amherst’s Reunion Weekend. The sculpture is a gift of the college’s Class of 1957, which is celebrating its 50th Reunion that weekend.
The June 2 dedication will feature remarks by Amherst College President Anthony W. Marx, sculptor Penelope Jencks, class president Edward S. Kambour ’57 and Alan H. Schechter ’57, who chaired the class gift project.
The statue is situated on Amherst’s Main Quadrangle, near the War Memorial. The poet sits gazing across the Amherst Quad, facing the Robert Frost Library.
Alan Schechter, a member of the Class of ’57 and a professor emeritus of political science at Wellesley College, says that when he and his classmates get together they always reminisce about the “indelible impact” of their teachers. “As we began to think about a class gift for our 50th Reunion,” he said, “we discussed what we could do to recognize the importance of teaching at Amherst. Robert Frost taught generations of Amherst students over the course of four decades, and we concluded that a sculpture of Frost, looking across the Main Quadrangle toward the Frost Library, would be a fitting way to symbolize the significance of teaching at the college and the gratitude of alumni to their professors.”
Perhaps best known for her monumental bronze of Eleanor Roosevelt in New York City’s Riverside Park, Jencks has been a sculptor for more than 30 years. She has worked in terra cotta and bronze, and now also sculpts in stone. Jencks chose granite rather than bronze for Amherst’s sculpture of Robert Frost because, she said, “Bronze is more fluid, granite is more rugged. I think that if Frost had had the choice he would have preferred granite. It is more New England, and more like him.”
Under Jencks’s guidance, artisans in Pietrasanta, Italy, carved Frost from a single piece of black granite from Zimbabwe. The finished piece weighs eight tons. It sits atop a base that weighs another nine tons.
Jencks has received numerous awards for her work and is widely recognized as a preeminent contemporary sculptor. A member of the National Academy of Design and the Royal British Society of Sculptors, she also is a fellow of the National Sculpture Society. Her works are included in the collections of the White House, the Maggie Cancer Care Center in Edinburgh, the Readers Digest Corporate Headquarters, the Boston Public Library, Brandeis University, the Bibliotecca di Pietrasanta, the National Academy of Design in New York and the cities of New York and Toledo, Ohio.
Sculptures are not common at Amherst College; the campus landscape is more Puritan New England than art museum. A statue of Noah Webster, one of Amherst College’s founders, was presented to the college in 1914 by Richard Billings of the Class of 1897. Originally installed in front of the old Stearns Chapel on the college grove, it now sits behind Frost Library. And a statue of preacher Henry Ward Beecher, an 1834 graduate of Amherst, stands below College Row, the buildings that first comprised the campus. The work of J.Q.A. Ward, the Beecher statue was installed in 1915 by the Class of ’14.
Generations of Amherst alumni remember taking classes with Robert Frost. He first lectured at the college in 1916, and served on the faculty from 1917 to 1920, 1923 to 1925, 1926 to 1938, and 1949 to 1963. He received his first-ever honorary degree—an M.A.—from Amherst in 1918; the college awarded him an honorary Litt.D. degree in 1948. During his tenure at Amherst, Frost taught courses in topics including composition, American literature and English literature. He also held public readings, conducted informal classes and readings with students, and worked individually with students and faculty.
Founded in 1821 for “the education of indigent young men of piety and talents,” Amherst College is now widely regarded as the premier liberal arts college in the nation, enrolling a diverse group of approximately 1,600 young men and women. Well known for its academic excellence, Amherst is also consistently ranked among the very best schools in the country in terms of accessibility: The college’s financial aid packages are consistently the most generous in the U.S., and among its peer universities and colleges Amherst has the greatest economic diversity. Diversity, in its broadest sense, is fundamental to Amherst’s mission. The college enrolls students from every state and more than 40 countries, and for the past several years more than 35 percent of Amherst’s students have been students of color. Amherst offers the B.A. degree in 33 fields of study.