Amherst College faculty gathered around large meeting table

In anticipation of the College’s bicentennial in 2021, a team of alumni, faculty and other scholars are preparing Amherst in the World, a collection of essays about the College’s history.

In what one might consider an unofficial kickoff to Reunion 2018, given the number of Amherst alumni involved, contributors gathered in May to brainstorm about the book, discussing topics from Dickinson to Doshisha, from geology to jazz.

Martha Saxton, professor of history and Sexuality, Women’s and gender studies and Elizabeth W. Bruss Reader, Emerita, has been tapped to edit the book project, with the goal of publishing next year.

The project’s committee has tasked some 20 scholars to each focus on a particular event, movement or person from Amherst’s history. “It’s not just about aspects of the College’s past, but how that past connects us to the larger world,” Saxton said of the book. Each essay will connect “to either a historical trend, or a global trend, or a trend in education, or a political development, or an event like the Civil War.”

Julie Dobrow, a Tufts University professor and Smith alumna, is working on a paper currently called “Todds from Amherst to the World, Eclipses, Ecology and Emily Dickinson.” (In the Summer 2017 Amherst magazine, she profiled eclipse-chaser David Peck Todd, class of 1875.)

 Rick Teichgraeber ’71, a history professor at Tulane University, is preparing a chapter on the controversy surrounding the forced resignation in 1923 of Amherst’s eighth president, Alexander Meiklejohn.

Jane Thrailkill ’85, an instructor at the University of North Carolina, will contribute a chapter on how Edward Hitchcock, noted geologist and Amherst’s third president, entered the battle against Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Molly Michelmore ’98’s chapter will cover tax resistors in the Pioneer Valley, while Fred Hoxie ’69, professor emeritus of American Indian studies and history at the University of Illinois, will write about early Amherst missionaries to Native people in the North American mainland and Hawaii.

Amherst faculty are penning contributions:

  • Rick López ’93, chair of the Latinx and Latin American Studies Program, is writing a chapter on Latinx students at Amherst.
  • Trent Maxey, associate professor of Asian languages and civilizations and history, is profiling Niijima Jō, Amherst’s first Japanese graduate (class of 1870) and founder of Doshisha University in Kyoto.
  • Marisa Parham, English professor and faculty diversity and inclusion officer, is preparing a chapter on diversity at the College.
  • David Wills, the John E. Kirkpatrick 1951 Professor of Religion, will tell the story of Edward Jones, the College’s first African-American graduate, class of 1826.

Saxton herself is preparing a paper for the volume on Amherst’s process of becoming coeducational, seen in the surrounding context of the era,  and chronicling the experiences of some of the first women admitted here in the 1970s and ’80s.