Biddy Martin

College presidents are supposed to give grand speeches and make bold proclamations. The greatness of your leadership lies not in lecturing, but in listening.

How many Amherst students have stories of being invited for a ride in your golf cart? Or of you showing up at their all-night sit-ins? You’ve never been shy about speaking up. But your most remarkable talent is for making others feel heard—and seen. That, and puzzles.

Nor is your drive limited to golf carts. During your presidency Amherst has been in high gear academically and in its diversity work. Most of your incoming class next fall are people of color, and fully a quarter qualify for Pell Grants—a long way from where Amherst was when you arrived. And they’re all about to meet their new best friend, your dog Oscar.

In the same year that John F. Kennedy visited Amherst, he gave a famous speech about the space program. He said, “we do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard … and because the challenge is one that we are unwilling to postpone, and which we intend to win.”

For some people, the chances of diversifying a historically elite college seemed as remote as a moon shot. But you’ve always done the hard things, whether becoming Brookville High’s all-time top scorer in women’s basketball, breaking ground as Amherst’s first woman president, or getting on horseback to reenact Zephaniah Swift Moore’s absconding from Williamstown.

You’ve intended to win. And, to a remarkable degree, you have won.

Not always on the field! But where it really counts.

I hereby declare you recipient of the honorary degree Doctor of Laws, entitled to all the rights, honors, and privileges appertaining thereto.

June 5, 2022