December 19, 2013
Katharine “Katie” Fretwell
AMHERST, Mass.—Katharine “Katie” Fretwell, a 1981 graduate of Amherst College who has served her alma mater’s Admission Office in various capacities for nearly 25 years, has been appointed dean of admission and financial aid at the college, effective July 1, 2014. Fretwell, currently the dean of admission, succeeds Amherst’s longtime Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Tom Parker, who will retire at the end of June. Parker’s retirement ends an illustrious 15-year career at the college.
Reporting directly to Amherst President Biddy Martin, Fretwell will oversee all of the operations of both the admission and financial aid offices at Amherst. With her staff, she will uphold the college’s commitment to recruiting and graduating the most talented young people regardless of socio-economic background. “Katie has worked alongside Tom for many years and will continue to build on Amherst’s success in attracting motivated and exceptional students,” said Martin. “I’m thrilled that she has agreed to take the reins from Tom.”
“I could not be any happier for Katie,” said Parker. “The admission and financial aid operations could not be in finer hands as we move forward.”
Fretwell first began work in the college’s admission office in 1989. She served in several positions before being appointed director of admission in 1998 and then dean of admission in 2012. In the latter position, she has been responsible for implementing and administering admission policy and for representing Amherst through scheduled secondary-school visits, on-campus Admission Office programs, conferences and alumni functions.
Fretwell has also been instrumental in launching several pioneering programs that have helped increase socioeconomic diversity at Amherst, while striving to ensure that low-income students who are admitted to Amherst graduate at the same rate as their peers, across all disciplines. Those programs include QuestBridge, an organization that matches high-achieving, low-income students with colleges that want them (Amherst was a founding member); Diversity Open Houses, which bring some 350 promising students of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds to campus each year; diversity interns, current Amherst students who work with the Office of Admission to reach out to prospective students from different cultural, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds; and Summer Science and Humanities Institutes, which provide admitted students with coursework to help ensure they will thrive at Amherst.
“I am especially grateful for the opportunity I have had to grow professionally as a member of the truly exceptional Amherst admission staff over the last 23 years,” said Fretwell. “I feel privileged to serve the College in this new capacity, and proud to receive the torch from my own mentor, Tom.”
Parker came to the Office of Admission in 1999 from his alma mater, Williams College, where he served on the admission staff for 20 years, including eight years as director. During his remarkable tenure at Amherst, the college achieved national recognition for recruiting and graduating low-income and racially diverse students of exceptional promise, for its need-blind admission policies for both domestic and international students, and for being one of the first colleges in the nation to eliminate loans for its students. Today, about 60 percent of Amherst students receive financial aid, and about 23 percent are Pell Grant recipients. Parker’s commitment to developing the most diverse and academically talented applicant pools in Amherst’s history has been rewarded with record levels of diversity among the college’s entering classes.
Parker’s hallmark candor and his devotion to data in decision-making and recruitment strategy has provided fellow administrators, faculty, prospective students and families with new insights into both the college research and the student selection processes, noted Martin, adding that he has advised hundreds of Amherst families about the college application process as well. “Tom leaves an exceptional and enviable legacy,” she said.
“Thanks to both Tom’s and Katie’s efforts and talents, Amherst’s Offices of Admission and Financial Aid are regarded as national models for enhancing access to and affordability of higher education,” said Martin. “The array of remarkable achievements of our students, the diversity of their experiences and perspectives and their wide range of ambitions are testaments to their success.”
Parker graduated from Williams in 1969 with a degree in American studies; his extracurricular activities there included varsity basketball and baseball. He then taught at Detroit Country Day School in Beverly Hills, Mich. After earning a master of arts in teaching from Harvard in 1973, he taught English at Marshfield High School in Marshfield, Mass., and then returned to Williams in 1979.
Fretwell graduated from Amherst in 1981, having majored in English and dramatic arts. A resident counselor to first-years, she also was a two-time captain of the varsity soccer and lacrosse teams and served as a Mayo-Smith Fellow in the Office of Admission. She received an Ed.M. degree in administration, planning and social policy from Harvard in 1985 and, like Parker, came to Amherst from Williams, where she served as assistant director of admission.
When asked about starting the 2014 academic year in her new position, Fretwell was typically enthusiastic: “Welcoming a new crop of first year and transfer students to the Amherst community each fall never gets old!”
Founded in 1821, Amherst is a highly selective, coeducational liberal arts college with 1,800 students from most of the 50 states and more than 30 other countries. Considered one of the nation’s best educational institutions, Amherst awards the B.A. degree in 37 fields of study. Sixty percent of Amherst students receive need-based financial aid.