Acclaimed Authors and Poets to Headline Amherst College’s Seventh Annual Litfest

Pulitzer Prize Winners Natalie Diaz and Viet Thanh Nguyen Among Acclaimed Authors and Poets to Headline Amherst College’s Seventh Annual Litfest, Feb. 24-27

Amherst College LitFest 2022: Illuminating great writing and Amherst's literary life

(AMHERST, Mass., Jan. 13, 2022)—From Feb. 24-27, Amherst College will host the seventh annual LitFest, a literary festival celebrating fiction, nonfiction, poetry and spoken-word performance, along with the College’s extraordinary literary life. This year’s lineup includes Katie Kitamura and Elizabeth McCracken, both 2021 National Book Award (NBA) nominees; Pulitzer Prize winners Natalie Diaz and Viet Thanh Nguyen; and journalists Vann Newkirk and David Graham, among others. After last year’s pandemic-induced decision to hold the event virtually, the 2022 festival will largely be in-person, with virtual options for many of the sessions. 

Since its inception in 2016, more than 30 renowned writers—including Anne Applebaum, Michael Chabon, Susan Choi, Masha Gessen, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Zadie Smith and Jesmyn Ward—have participated in LitFest, many as a result of a partnership between Amherst College; its award-winning literary magazine, The Common; and the National Book Foundation (NBF) Presents program. More information about the events, the writers and the livestreams is available at amherst.edu/go/litfest. The 2022 schedule is as follows (all times are Eastern Standard):

Amherst College and Rashad Devoe Resolve Lawsuit

(Amherst, Mass., Jan. 12, 2022) — Amherst College and Rashad Devoe have resolved the legal claims recently brought by Coach Devoe, the former head coach of Amherst’s men’s lacrosse team.

Amherst College and Coach Devoe are both committed to increasing diversity across collegiate sports, and particularly in men’s lacrosse. They move forward with mutual respect for the work each has done to achieve this goal.

College Makes Bicentennial Donations to Town Library, Arts Venue

Funds to be Split Evenly Between the Jones Library and The Drake, A New Arts and Cultural Hub Being Developed in Downtown Amherst

Aerial view of downtown Amherst, Massachusetts (AMHERST, Mass., Jan. 5, 2022) — Amherst College will make a special $200,000 donation–to mark the occasion of its Bicentennial–to two of the town of Amherst’s important institutions, one historic and another one new. The funds will be split evenly between the 93-year-old Jones Library, which is slated to undergo a major restoration and renovation that was overwhelmingly approved by voters last month, and The Drake, a new arts and cultural performance venue for the downtown district.

 “Amherst College and the Town of Amherst have had a 200-plus-year relationship, beginning with the establishment of a charity fund in 1818 by the citizens of the town to give free instruction to ‘indigent young men of promising talents and hopeful piety,’” said Biddy Martin, president of the College. “As we mark the College’s Bicentennial, our ties to the town remain strong. We are especially pleased to be providing support for two projects that will benefit the town and are also aligned with our mission.”

New Collaborative Solar Facility Goes Online

Facility is a first-of-its-kind collaboration among Amherst and four other leading New England liberal arts colleges

EDITORS’ NOTE: Presidents and other senior leaders from the partnership colleges may be available for interviews. Contact the media relations director at each institution: Amherst (Caroline Hanna, 413/542-8417), Bowdoin (Doug Cook, 207/725-3964), Hampshire (Jennifer Chrisler, 202-276-4311), Smith (Stacey Schmeidel, 704/682-2629), Williams (Greg Shook, 202/329-9075).

Drone footage and high-res images available upon request

solar energy facility

(Amherst, Mass.; Brunswick, Maine; Northampton, Mass.; Williamstown, Mass., Nov. 15, 2021)—An innovative collaborative energy project has started delivering electricity to five New England colleges—and to tens of thousands of students, staff and faculty—as a new solar energy facility has gone online in Farmington, Maine.

Launched in 2018, the New England College Renewable Partnership is a first-of-its-kind collaboration among five leading New England liberal arts institutions: Amherst, Bowdoin, Hampshire, Smith and Williams

Amherst College Launches Bicentennial Podcast Celebrating the Amherst Experience and the Liberal Arts

Narrated by Award-Winning Actor Jeffrey Wright ’87, “Amherst at 200: Celebrating Mind, Heart, and Community” Features Conversations With Accomplished Alumni and Past and Current Presidents

Illustration of the Mt Holyoke range with the word Amherst at 200: Celebrating Mind, Heart, and Community (AMHERST, Mass., Nov. 12, 2021) — As part of a host of activities and initiatives marking its Bicentennial year, Amherst College has launched a compelling new podcast showcasing the Amherst experience and the liberal arts. Titled “Amherst at 200: Celebrating Mind, Heart, and Community” and narrated by award-winning actor Jeffrey Wright ’87, the series kicks off with a moderated conversation between College President Biddy Martin and two of her predecessors, Anthony Marx, now president and chief executive officer of the New York Public Library, and Tom Gerety, former New York University Law School professor and executive director of NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice who has since retired. Ten remaining episodes—plus three special encore episodes of conversations between Martin and other alumni—are devoted to the individual stories of extraordinary Amherst graduates. The first two episodes will be available for download on Nov. 12, with new episodes released now through December.

Amherst College to End Legacy Preference and Expand Financial Aid Investment to $71 Million

Changes in Admissions Policies and Financial Aid to Assure An Amherst College Education Is Within Reach

With the New Program, 80 Percent of U.S. Households Would Typically Pay No Tuition and Half Would Pay No Tuition, Housing or Meals

(AMHERST, Mass., Oct. 20, 2021)  Amherst College today announced that it is ending the longstanding practice of a legacy admission preference. Paired with a new, expanded financial aid program focused on improving financial and programmatic support for both lower- and middle-income families, Amherst is sending a clear signal to prospective students that its education is within reach for all.

Legacy students—children of alumni who are academically well-qualified—have represented approximately 11 percent of each class. Going forward, legacy status will no longer factor into the College’s holistic admission process, creating greater opportunity for more applicants.

Weston Dripps Named Director of Sustainability at Amherst College

1992 Alumnus Will Also Serve as Director of College’s New Center for Sustainability

Weston Dripps (AMHERST, Mass., Sept. 27, 2021) — Weston Dripps ’92, executive director of the Shi Institute for Sustainable Communities at Furman University, has been named Amherst College’s director of sustainability and inaugural director of Amherst’s new Center for Sustainability, announced Provost and Dean of the Faculty Catherine Epstein. Dripps will begin his new position on Jan. 1, 2022.     

“The search committee was deeply impressed with Wes’s expertise, experience, accomplishments, enthusiasm and ambitious vision for what is possible for a center for sustainability in a liberal arts environment,” said Epstein. “Sustainability is at the heart of the College’s mission, and I know Wes will do a tremendous job of growing and implementing sustainability initiatives across the College.”<--break->

Dripps will report to Epstein, the College’s chief academic officer, in recognition of Amherst’s commitment to sustainability as a core part of its academic mission and practices. His agenda is ambitious. He has been charged with creating and supporting opportunities for students to engage in scholarship focused on a just and sustainable future; building collaborative relationships that enhance teaching and experiential learning; engaging the community in sustainability initiatives to inform strategic planning, management of resources, and operations and facilities planning and design; and helping Amherst move toward carbon neutrality. (The College’s Climate Action Plan calls for climate neutrality by 2030.) 

Amherst President Biddy Martin Announces She Will Conclude Her Presidency Next Summer

Martin’s Tenure Reflects Period of Extraordinary Growth and Accomplishment

  President Biddy Martin (Amherst, Mass., September 13, 2021) — President Biddy Martin, who has served as the 19th president of Amherst College since 2011, announced today that she will conclude her tenure next summer, after 11 years leading one of the nation’s most prestigious liberal arts colleges. Her years of leadership will mark one of the longest-serving presidencies of the College─and the longest in 50 years─with remarkable achievements across the institution’s priorities.

“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.”

In Celebration of Its 200th Anniversary, Amherst College Releases Three Bicentennial-themed Books

Bicentennial book covers

(Amherst, Mass., March 18, 2021) — In honor and celebration of the Western Massachusetts institution’s 200th anniversary this year, Amherst College has released three new books: Eye Mind Heart: A View of Amherst College at 200, the signature book of the Bicentennial, by Nancy Pick ’83; Amherst College: The Campus Guide, by Blair Kamin ’79 (Princeton Architectural Press); and Amherst in the World by Martha Saxton, professor of history and sexuality, women’s and gender studies and Elizabeth W. Bruss Reader, emerita. All three are available for purchase on the Bicentennial website.

“Among many other things, Amherst has long been known as ‘The Writing College,’” said Amherst President Biddy Martin, “and we are celebrating the Bicentennial with the publication of these three books. They illuminate aspects of the history of the College with emphasis on its firsts, its quirks, little-known facts, thinkers, architecture and so much more. I hope they might add to a very happy 200th anniversary to every member of the Amherst community.”

Hidden Drives: The Scene and the Unseen of Home

Amherst College’s CHI Fellows and Mead Art Museum Collaborate on a Virtual Exhibition that Explores our Ideas of Home

(Amherst, Mass., May 3, 2021) — Hidden Drives: The Scene and Unseen of Home is a collaboration between the Mead Art Museum and five fellows in residence at Amherst College’s Center for Humanistic Inquiry (CHI). Over the past year, the CHI Fellows focused on different aspects of how artwork in the Mead’s extensive collection related to the CHI’s theme of home—how our perceptions and experiences of home are controlled by forces that might be invisible to some while intensely felt by others. 

The Hidden Drives exhibit launched in March, and CHI Fellows will be in residence at Amherst through June 2021. Each year the CHI welcomes a cohort of fellows to Amherst to teach and conduct research relevant to a timely theme. 

Amherst College Professor Receives Prestigious New Directions Award From the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Kiara Visil holding a book from the  Kim-Wait/Eisenberg Native American Literature Collection (Amherst, Mass., April 20, 2021) —Kiara Vigil, associate professor of American studies at Amherst College and co-founder of the College’s Native American and Indigenous studies (NAIS) program, has been awarded a $300,000 grant as part of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s prestigious New Directions Fellowship. The funding will enable Vigil to learn, practice and preserve the endangered language of her ancestors, Dakota, and translate a number of Dakota-language papers and publications in Amherst’s extensive Kim-Wait/Eisenberg Native American Literature Collection (KWE Collection).  

“I feel extremely fortunate and honored to be able to not only gain access to a language lost to me because of colonization, but to collaborate with Indigenous language teachers on creating new materials that will benefit Dakota people for generations to come,” said Vigil. “In addition, I am eager to include Amherst students as partners in this project as I build a website that will be a resource for both historians and the general public interested in learning more about Dakota contributions to United States history and culture.”

Amherst College Launches “Black Women of Amherst” Multimedia Project 

Recorded Stories of Black Alumnae Will Culminate in Podcast Series and Live Online Conversations This Fall

a Black woman reading, on the Amherst campus in the 1970s

(Amherst, Mass., April 7, 2021) President Biddy Martin announced today an exciting project that will feature Amherst’s Black alumnae, illuminating their distinctive and influential contributions to the College and the wider world, while also bringing their varied experiences and perspectives to light. 

Black alumnae of the College are invited to record recollections of their experiences at Amherst. Then, this fall, they will join together for a series of live online conversations open to all alumni; current students, faculty and staff; and potential students to talk, share, learn and enjoy the stories and achievements of these remarkable women.

Amherst College to Mark its Bicentennial In a Year of Events and Activities Celebrating its Past and Looking to its Future

Amherst College Bicentennial 1821 2021 Highlights Include Three New Books, Podcasts, a Public Art and Activism Project, An Outdoor Trails Revitalization, Original Music Compositions and More 

(Amherst, Mass., Feb. 24, 2021) — In 1821, a group of residents from the town of Amherst, Mass., and surrounding communities founded the Amherst Collegiate Institution for the “education of indigent young men of piety and talents for the Christian ministry.” Two centuries, millions of courses, tens of thousands of degrees and contributions to the world by alumni later, the school that became Amherst College will celebrate its Bicentennial through a series of creative and engaging events and initiatives throughout 2021.

National Book Award Winner Charles Yu Among Acclaimed Authors, Poets To Participate in Amherst College’s Sixth Annual Litfest, Feb. 25-28

LitFest 2021 wordmark (AMHERST, Mass., Jan. 21, 2021) — Amherst College will host the sixth annual LitFest this year, an annual literary festival celebrating fiction, nonfiction, poetry and spoken-word performance—as well as the College’s extraordinary literary life—Feb. 25-28. Against the backdrop of the global pandemic, the event has gone virtual, but it will still feature top-notch readings and conversations with award-winning authors. This year’s lineup includes Charles Yu, winner of the 2020 National Book Award (NBA) for fiction; 2020 NBA fiction nominee Megha Majumdar; 2020 NBA poetry finalists Tommye Blount and Natalie Diaz; and Pulitzer Prize winner Anne Applebaum, among others.

Amherst College Art Professor Sonya Clark Launches Final Phase Of “Solidarity Book Project”; Contributors Will Sculpt Iconic Raised Fist Symbol into Pages of Books

  Books with a raised fist sculpted into the fore edge (Amherst, Mass., February 16, 2021) — During Black History Month, Sonya Clark ’89, award-winning artist and professor of art and the history of art at Amherst College, has launched the final phase of the Solidarity Book Project (SBP), a collaborative artwork and activist initiative open to the public. In this phase, participants will learn how to sculpt the iconic raised fist symbol into the pages of thematically relevant books. At the project’s conclusion in September 2021, an immersive exhibition including participants’ sculpted books will be mounted. As is the case with all three phases of the project, each participant’s submission will be matched by individual donations from the College up to a total of $100,000 to provide access to books to Black and Indigenous communities in need.