The Meiklejohn Fellows Program and the Charles Hamilton Houston Internship Program will increase student career opportunities.
Gifts from life trustee Charles Ashby Lewis ’64, who has been particularly influential throughout the Loeb’s modernization process, and his wife, Penny Sebring; trustee Arthur W. Koenig ’66, who laid the groundwork for and helped build connections between the Meiklejohn and Houston programs, and his wife, Yvonne; trustee Ted W. Beneski ’78 and his wife, Laurie; and a matching gift from a major anonymous donor have made the creation of these two milestone programs possible. The gifts are part of Amherst’s comprehensive campaign, Promise: The Campaign for Amherst’s Third Century.
“I am extremely grateful to our generous alumni for their extraordinary contributions. They have become our partners in our efforts to help students pursue a rigorous liberal arts education, knowing that the College will offer opportunities for them to prepare for possible careers,” said Biddy Martin, president of the College. “The expansion of the Loeb Center’s programs through the Meiklejohn Fellows and Houston Internships provides all our students significant opportunities to acquire the skills and work experiences they will need when they graduate.”
“As Amherst has admirably diversified its student body, I have been pleased to help modernize what is now the Loeb Center,” said Lewis. “It seeks to enable all Amherst students to obtain meaningful first positions in their chosen fields before graduating.”
“These two wonderful programs are the result of experience and understanding gained over years of developing Amherst's diversity programs,” said Koenig. “The College learned that a diverse student body requires more than academic support. The Meiklejohn Fellowships and the Houston Internships offer this to all students.”
“The interaction between these two new programs, and the deep alumni commitment fueling it, will empower much of our center’s work in the years to come,” said Loeb Center director Emily Griffen. “We will be able to more nimbly meet the needs of our students as they navigate a broad range of post-graduate options.”
The Meiklejohn Fellows Program provides wrap-around infrastructure for first-generation and/or low-income Amherst students through coordinated financial, academic, career planning, and social supports. The College’s first-year class is exceptionally strong academically and the most racially/ethnically and socioeconomically diverse on record: 31 percent are Meiklejohn Fellows and 49 percent self-identify as U.S. students of color. The program is named for Alexander Meiklejohn, who, at 41 years of age, was Amherst’s youngest president and served from 1912 to 1923. He was a notable education reformer, a staunch defender of academic freedom, and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. While at Amherst, Meiklejohn laid the intellectual groundwork for it to become the rigorous liberal arts college that it is today.
The Charles Hamilton Houston Internship Program, over time, will make a large number of paid internships and research opportunities available to all Amherst students, in the process helping to create “social capital” for many. The program is named for Houston, who graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa as a member of the Amherst class of 1915, and went on to become the first African-American editor of the Harvard Law Review. He became dean of the Howard University College of Law at 34, eventually mentoring Thurgood Marshall, among others. Houston is considered one of the prime architects of the legal strategy which challenged the principle of “separate but equal” in public education, leading to the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954.
Meiklejohn was the president of Amherst when Houston was a student. Fittingly, the two programs will be linked, in that all Meiklejohn Fellows will be guaranteed a Houston Internship after either their first or second years. In today’s rapidly changing world, it is increasingly important for students to begin to explore careers early in their college lives. And, in turn, in providing new structures to help all students explore and plan for careers, the Loeb Center and its Houston program will help to fortify the College’s commitment to the liberal arts.
Another important initiative in the modernization of the Loeb Center is the creation of a number of industry-specific Career Programs. They have been made possible by gifts from Lewis; trustee Douglas C. Grissom ’89 and his wife, Ann M. Grissom P’22; and Loeb Center Advisory Council members Sara H. Banner ’89 and her husband, Jon. The Loeb Center was named in 2016 in recognition of a gift from Michael R. Loeb ’77 and his wife, Marjorie. It reports to the College’s Dean of the Faculty, Catherine Epstein, to reinforce its significance in the overall academic experience and growth of Amherst students.
Amherst College prepares students to use ideas to make a difference in the world. Since its founding, in 1821, in Western Massachusetts, Amherst has demonstrated steadfast confidence in the value of the liberal arts and the importance of critical thinking. Today, its financial aid program is among the most substantial in the nation, and its student body is among the most diverse. Small classes, an open curriculum and a singular focus on undergraduate education ensure that leading scholars engage daily with talented, curious students, equipping them for leadership in an increasingly global and complex world. The College will celebrate its bicentennial in 2021.