May 3, 2011

AMHERST, Mass. — Arthur Koenig, a graduate of Amherst’s Class of 1966, will receive the school’s Medal for Eminent Service during its commencement exercises on Sunday, May 22. The award is presented to a member of the Amherst community who has demonstrated extraordinary devotion to the college.


Koenig, a political science major, graduated from Amherst cum laude and immediately joined the Peace Corps for two years. He was sent to El Salvador, where he staffed a rural mobile health unit. When he returned to the United States, he earned a master’s degree in international relations, with a concentration in international finance, from the School of International Relations at Columbia University. For the next two and a half decades, he held various positions in the international steel trading business, including at Duferco S.A. and Erlanger and Company. At Erlanger, he helped launch the business and later led it as president. He then spent nearly a decade as chairman and managing partner at VitzStal, an electrical steel mill located in Russia. Since his retirement in 2006, he has devoted much time and energy to various philanthropic activities, the largest two being his alma mater and Human Rights Watch. At Amherst, he created and sponsors the Koenig Scholars program, which provides funding to students from Africa and Latin America for study at Amherst.

In a letter congratulating Koenig on the honor, Amherst College President Anthony W. Marx said the Board of Trustees voted unanimously to award Koenig the Medal in recognition of his “extraordinary generosity of spirit.” Marx made specific mention of his scholarship program, writing, “We especially appreciate how carefully you have worked with us to ensure that we are reaching incredible students whose educational opportunities at home are otherwise quite limited, and that Amherst is learning how best to support them on our campus.”

“In a few short years, the Koenig Scholars Program has transformed the Amherst education for all our students,” Marx continued. “It has been truly humbling to see the tremendous value the Koenig Scholars place on this chance to learn, and how earnestly they desire to leverage this opportunity for the good of others, rather than for personal gain. The critical mass of students from the developing world in our classrooms and dormitories has enriched our campus dialogue immeasurably.”  He also commended Koenig for his work to help those less advantaged than him: “Although many observe the obstacles that the poor must surmount just to survive, few take decisive action to help dismantle these barriers. You have done so throughout your life, from your service in the Peace Corps and your more recent efforts to offer bright young Africans and Latin Americans a liberal arts education.” 

Each year, the Amherst College Board of Trustees, in consultation with the secretary of the Society of the Alumni, selects a recipient for the Medal of Eminent Service, which is awarded at Amherst’s commencement ceremony. The medal was established in 1934 as a means of recognizing exceptional and distinguished service to the college for a great period of time, often in a variety of areas.