Martin’s Tenure Reflects Period of Extraordinary Growth and Accomplishment
“The end of the ’21-’22 academic year will be the right time for me to begin my next chapter,” said Martin in a message to the Amherst community. “I look forward to writing, having more time to read, lingering over coffee with friends, playing more, and contributing what I can to the causes that matter to me. It will also be a good time for a new president to assume the role: the College is in excellent financial shape, has a remarkably talented and diverse student body and an outstanding and increasingly diverse faculty and staff, exciting projects in the works, and is making progress toward its goal of inclusiveness and equity….It is an honor to be part of an intellectually curious community that aims high, values critical and independent thought, finds joy in one another’s company, and is committed to current and future generations.”
“The Board has accepted Biddy’s decision most reluctantly, with immeasurable gratitude for her inspired service to Amherst as our 19th president,” said Andrew J. Nussbaum ’85, the chair of the Amherst College Board of Trustees, in a message to the community. “Biddy’s contributions to Amherst have benefitted every aspect of the College: expanding our brilliant and dedicated faculty; attracting the most diverse and extraordinarily talented students; raising more financial support for the College than any of her predecessors; growing our endowment to secure Amherst’s financial future; implementing an ambitious, achievable Climate Action Plan; engaging with our alumni from every generation; and modernizing the administrative function of the College ─ all with her trademark humor, common sense, graceful intelligence, and unmitigated passion for Amherst’s mission and values.”
Following a year of sabbatical, Martin intends to return to Amherst as a member of the faculty to teach.
The list of the College’s accomplishments under Martin’s leadership at Amherst is lengthy and includes:
- Attracting the best and brightest students, both domestic and international. The newly-admitted class of 2025 reflects, for the first time, a student body that self-identifies as majority domestic people of color, as well as nearly one quarter who qualify for Pell grants, and a significant percentage of first-generation students. The new international student body, 12% of the class, are extraordinary students, thanks to the College’s unique commitment among liberal arts colleges to need-blind admissions for all Amherst students, domestic and international. Over the past decade, applications have increased more than 60% to nearly 14,000.
- Hiring 123 new tenure-line faculty members with superlative teaching skills and scholarship, and establishing other faculty support, including extensive start-up funds for research grants and the opening of the Center for Teaching and Learning. Of these hires, 35% have been domestic faculty of color, which does not include the diversity of the College’s international faculty.
- Growing the endowment to approximately $3.7 billion as of June 30, 2021, a remarkable achievement during her time at Amherst that leaves the College exceptionally well-positioned financially for the future.
- Spearheading, with Advancement, alumni, families and friends, the College’s most successful campaign, Promise: The Campaign for Amherst’s Third Century, that has already reached nearly 90% of its $625 million goal, well ahead of schedule.
- Supporting the humanities with resources for the establishment of the Center for Humanistic Inquiry and for Amherst’s LitFest, an annual literary festival that brings award-winning writers to the College for three days of readings, interviews, and performances.
- Completing the most important set of capital projects in the recent history of the College, among them the award-winning Science Center, a state-of-the-art teaching and research facility supporting the explosive growth in the College’s depth and breadth across the STEM areas; the Greenway project, including four new residence halls, recreation areas, and significant unifying landscaping that transforms the eastern part of the campus; and the renovation of the Powerhouse, a turn-of-the-century power supply building that now serves as a major student activity space.
- Championing a student center and completing the design phase of what will be the first major crossroads for the student body and the entire campus, including dining, activities, clubs, performance spaces, a pub, and casual spaces for students, faculty, and staff to connect and engage.
- Hiring the College’s first Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion officer and establishing the inaugural DEI office, while also developing the College’s anti-racism plan, with specific actions, metrics, and regular updates.
- Supporting the excellence of the College’s athletics and other co-curricular offerings, highlighted, in part, by five Division III national championships and numerous individual champions and finalists.
- Committing Amherst to responsible environmental sustainability through the College’s Climate Action Plan, which will allow the College to achieve true carbon neutrality by 2030, with the geothermal energy plan entering the construction phase this academic year.
- Creating hundreds of student research and internship opportunities per year from which thousands of Amherst students have benefited, with support from many of our alumni, and establishing the Loeb Center for Career Development to provide Amherst’s students with generous resources to develop professional interests and explore career paths beginning in their first year.
- Supporting the well-being and gathering of our community with now highly anticipated seasonal festivals, popular student dinners and a broader range of social and cultural opportunities for students to fully enjoy the residential college experience.
Martin was elected the 19th president of Amherst College in June 2011, and was also appointed as a full professor with tenure in the German and the then-Women’s and Gender Studies departments (now Sexuality, Women’s and Gender Studies). She had previously served as chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and as provost at Cornell University. President Martin was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and holds honorary degrees from the College of William & Mary, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Doshisha University. She also serves as a Fellow of the Harvard Corporation, the only sitting college president to serve on the governing board of the university.
The College will shortly commence the search for Amherst’s next president. The Board of Trustees will establish a search committee to be led by Nussbaum and comprising trustees, as well as faculty, staff, and students, each selected by their peers.
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 is marking its bicentennial in 2021.