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Biddy bids adieu to Badgers; Amherst next

I've been following the story of (Cornell's former-Provost) Biddy Martin for quite some time, ever since she was first speculated to be a finalist for the UW-Madison chancellorship, and through all of her subsequent ups and downs. I must admit, however, to be surprised by the announcement that Martin is to be the next president of Amherst College.

You see, I always had Biddy pegged as a strong supporter of public higher education. So to move to a private liberal arts college raises my eyebrows a bit. Perhaps she was a bit overwhelmed with the super-charged political atmosphere in Madison?

She received her undergraduate degree from the College of William and Mary and advanced degrees from Middlebury College and UW-Madison. She was a professor of German studies and women's studies at Cornell before becoming its provost.

She has been open about her sexuality as a gay woman and has written extensively on gender issues, but has said she prefers for the focus to be on the mission of the schools she has served.

She said in her letter Tuesday to UW-Madison students, employees and alumni that deciding to leave her alma mater for Amherst was one of the most difficult decisions of her life.

"The chance to combine my belief in the transformative power of the liberal arts with the presidency of the leading liberal arts college in the country is the best opportunity I can imagine," she wrote. "I would have left UW-Madison at this point for no other school, and considered no other."

Amherst, one of about 50 colleges and universities in the U.S. with endowments exceeding $1 billion, is consistently ranked among the nation's top liberal arts schools.

Jide Zeitlin, Amherst's board of trustees chairman and leader of the presidential search committee, said Martin emerged at the top of a úvery robust pool of applicants for the presidency, including some candidates from outside the U.S. He cited her administrative skills, passion for liberal arts, knowledge about life sciences and breadth of experience.

Also interesting to note, MetaEzra recently critiqued Amherst College's much advertised commitment to economic diversity, despite the fact that Cornell educates far more low and middle-income students, with less resources to boot.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on June 15, 2011 (#)

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