December 9, 2008                    

AMHERST, Mass.–Amherst College has created a permanently endowed scholarship fund for veterans of the U.S. armed forces who are accepted by and enroll at the liberal arts school. The Veterans Scholarship Fund, as it is called, will provide enough financial aid to cover the full demonstrated need of qualified former American servicemen and servicewomen, starting in the fall of 2009.

“Amherst has a deep respect for those who choose to serve this country through the military, and we hope that this scholarship fund will open a few doors for them,” said the college’s president, Anthony W. Marx. “In addition to elevating the level of discourse among Amherst students, faculty and staff in the classroom and across campus, I am confident the real-world insights and presence of student-veterans will resonate throughout our entire community.”

“It is extremely important to show gratitude to those who have made a sacrifice to serve our country, and helping make an Amherst education accessible to such men and women will do just that,” added Trustee Richard LeFrak ’67, whose gift from the Richard and Karen LeFrak Charitable Foundation helped create the fund. “Veterans offer a completely new perspective that many of the college’s undergraduates will benefit from hearing. They will also add a whole new dimension to the diversity of the student body.”

Former members of the armed forces who apply to and are accepted at Amherst must still complete the college’s financial aid application process to determine their eligibility and need for federal, state and institutional funding. The hope is that those funds, combined with G.I. Bill benefits, will cover most—if not all—of the expenses for the veterans to attend the college, explained Dean of Admission Tom Parker. “We are fully committed to providing the best education possible to those who are so worthy of it,” he said.

To find the most promising applicants, Amherst will tap into its extensive recruiting networks and develop new avenues as needed. The college will extend its efforts into areas of the country with large concentrations of veterans, including California, Florida, Virginia and Washington, D.C. Well-qualified veterans who wish to transfer into Amherst from community colleges and other institutions also will receive strong consideration. And to welcome the veterans who ultimately enroll, Amherst will make an added variety of services and programs available to the students to assist them in their transition to life at college, Parker said.

The creation of the new fund builds on Amherst’s leadership in the areas of accessibility and affordability. The college was one of the first in the country to adopt a need-blind admission policy, and, this past April, the policy was extended to international students. Amherst was also the first college in the nation to eliminate loans for low-income students and one of the first to eliminate loans for every undergraduate—a program which was enacted this academic year.

“I am thrilled to support the new Veterans Scholarship Fund—Iraq and Afghanistan veterans will both contribute to and gain an invaluable amount from studying at Amherst,” said alumnus Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and one of the fund’s first contributors. “I am grateful that my beloved alma mater is taking such a significant step to include some of our country’s newest veterans in its community. The school is leading the way nationally in making a first-class education accessible to a new generation of American heroes.”

Amherst’s connection to the armed forces is long and deep, and students and alumni have fought in conflicts from the Civil War to Iraq. In addition to Rieckhoff—who served in the Iraq War—other notable graduates involved in the military include Edward Duffield Neill (Class of 1842), a chaplain in the Union Army and private secretary to presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson; Dwight W. Morrow (Class of 1895), civilian member of Gen. John J. Pershing’s staff in World War I; and Stansfield Turner (Class of 1945), former Navy admiral and director of the CIA.

Founded in 1821 for “the education of indigent young men of piety and talents,” Amherst is now widely regarded as one of the premier liberal arts colleges in the nation, enrolling a diverse group of approximately 1,600 young men and women each year. Well known for its academic excellence, Amherst is also considered among the very best schools in the country in terms of economic accessibility: The college’s financial aid packages are consistently among the most generous in the United States, and, among its peer universities and colleges, Amherst has the greatest economic diversity.

Diversity, in its broadest sense, is fundamental to the college’s mission. Amherst enrolls students from every state and more than 40 countries, and, for the past several years, nearly 40 percent of Amherst’s students have been students of color. Amherst offers the B.A. degree in 34 fields of study.