Biddy Martin to leave Amherst College presidency next year

  • Amherst College President Biddy Martin GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • GAZETTE FILE PHOTO GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • Amherst College President Biddy Martin, shown at commencement in 2018, plans to leave her leadership post at the end of the academic year. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 9/13/2021 3:59:34 PM

AMHERST — Longtime Amherst College President Biddy Martin has announced she will end her tenure as college president next summer.

“The end of the ’21-’22 academic year will be the right time for me to begin my next chapter,” said Martin, 70, in a statement released by Amherst College on Monday. “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.”

Martin said the school is in good financial shape and praised its student body, faculty and staff.

“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,” Martin continued.

Martin has been Amherst’s president since 2011, and is one of the longest-serving presidents in the school’s history and the longest-serving president in that past 50 years. She is also the first woman to serve as president of the college.

“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, chairman of the Amherst College board of trustees, in a statement.

Martin has announced her intention to take a year’s sabbatical after she steps down, before returning to the college as a faculty member to teach. Martin is a full professor with tenure in the German and the Sexuality, Women’s and Gender Studies departments.

The board of trustees plans to establish a search committee to find a successor to Martin, led by Nussbaum and consisting of trustees, faculty, staff, and students, with members of each group selected by their peers.

Martin’s tenure has been marked by a number of accomplishments, including growing Amherst’s endowment to $3.7 billion as of June 30 of this year.

Martin’s time as president saw the school tackle issues of diversity, with the recently admitted class of 2025 being, for the first time, a student body that self-identifies as majority domestic people of color. The class also has a significant percentage of first-generation college students, with nearly a quarter of the class qualifying for Pell grants.

Under Martin’s tenure, 123 new tenure-line faculty members were hired, 35% of whom were domestic people of color. The college’s first chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer was also hired under her presidency, and the inaugural diversity, equity and inclusion office was established. The college’s anti-racism plan was also developed, with specific actions, metrics, and regular updates.

On the environmental front, Amherst committed to a climate action plan in the Martin years under which the college expects to achieve true carbon neutrality by 2030.

Additionally, how the school handles sexual assault misconduct and violence was reformed early in her presidency.

Before coming to Amherst, Martin was chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and she served as Cornell University’s provost before that.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazetenet.com.


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