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Emory University dean Michael A. Elliott picked to lead Amherst College

  • MICHAEL A. ELLIOTT

  • President Biddy Martin delivers her last commencement speech last month after 11 years at Amherst College. FOR THE GAZETTE/SABATO VISCONTI



Staff Writer
Monday, June 13, 2022

AMHERST — Michael A. Elliott, an Amherst College alumnus who has been a professor of English and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Emory University, will become the college’s 20th president Aug. 1.

The college announced Wednesday that Elliott, a 1992 graduate majoring in English and Russian, would succeed Biddy Martin, the college’s president since 2011. Martin said last year she would finish her term in 2022.

“I am elated to have the opportunity to work with Amherst’s exceptional faculty, staff and alumni in pursuit of this mission, and I can’t wait to meet the extraordinary students of Amherst this fall,” Elliott said in a statement issued by the college.

“Under Biddy’s leadership, Amherst has recruited a new generation of faculty whose scholarship demonstrates the value of the liberal arts, and the college has made impressive advances to ensure that students of all socioeconomic backgrounds have access to its transformative educational experience.”

Elliott added that he feels fortunate to return to the college, where he saw the power of a liberal arts education to transform lives of students and shape the world beyond the campus.

The college made the announcement of Elliott’s appointment via an email from Andrew J. Nussbaum, chairman of the board of trustees and of the Presidential Search Committee. The search committee was made up of faculty, students, staff and trustees.

“Michael emerged as the committee’s choice from an unusually deep, diverse and talented pool of candidates from the most prominent institutions, both large and small, a reminder to us all of Amherst’s leadership position in higher education,” Nussbaum wrote.

Nussbaum explained that Elliott impressed the search committee and the board with the breadth and depth of his scholarly work and his proven record of excellence in leadership at Emory across a wide range of strategic initiatives.

“And, like Biddy, he is as kind as he is smart, someone whose own story, beginning with his education at Amherst, echoes the importance of the liberal arts experience in building a life of contribution and consequence,” Nussbaum said. “I am thrilled to welcome him back to Amherst.”

Elliott’s selection was finalized as trustees met on campus during commencement weekend.

Since May 2016, Elliott has served as the chief academic and executive officer of Emory’s College of Arts and Sciences, the university’s core undergraduate division and home of the liberal arts. The college comprises more than 35 academic departments, 570 full-time faculty and about 5,500 students.

Elliot, who’s also the Charles Howard Candler Professor of English at Emory, is a scholar of American literature and culture of the 19th and early 20th centuries, including writing two books related to American literary and intellectual history. He has held fellowships at Yale’s Beinecke Library, Harvard’s Warren Center for Studies in American History and the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia.

He has also advanced research in the humanities through a major grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support the development and publication of digital monographs.

Martin also praised the selection of her successor, observing that “his articulation of the importance of the liberal arts to democracy combine with his deep commitment to educational opportunity, equity and inclusion to make him a superb choice to lead our beloved Amherst as its 20th president.”

“His demonstrated priorities and contagious enthusiasm for the work ahead will make Amherst an even greater Amherst under his leadership,” Martin said.

Elliott met his wife, Jennifer W. Mathews, also an Amherst College graduate, while in college, and they have two children.