Amherst selects Anthony Marx as its new president

After a 7-month search period, Amherst named Anthony Marx as its 18th president on April 4. Marx is scheduled to take over Amherst’s top post in the fall of 2003, succeeding Tom Gerety, who announced his resignation last year.

A committee, formed in September 2002 and composed of faculty, staff, alumni and students, conducted the search for Gerety’s replacement. Initially the committee was attracted to the prospect of finding a candidate who was either a woman or a minority, but ultimately decided that Marx, a white male, was the best candidate for the job. “We were very careful and very thorough, and our only charge was not to come back until we had someone whom we had complete confidence in,” said Amherst professor and committee member Rick Griffiths.

Marx, a political science professor at Columbia University and graduate of Yale and Princeton Universities, explained that he believed that the committee was looking for someone “who had a serious academic background and a reputation as a faculty member rather than a professional administrator.” He noted that the committee requested an application from him in early February, and that until that point, he had not seriously considered becoming a college president.

“Tony’s interests and the way in which he has engaged them, both intellectually and pragmatically, are remarkably consistent with Amherst’s ideals of scholarship and public service,” said Amos Hostetter, president of Amherst’s Board of Trustees and the chair of the Presidential Search Committee. “As a teacher, scholar and administrator, Tony Marx has demonstrated a commitment to inclusion and access, and a deep belief that at its best, education can be a force of reconciliation and healing in a turbulent world.”

Within the field of political science, Marx focuses on race relations, especially in South Africa. According to Michael MacDonald, professor of political science, in his book “Lessons of Struggle,” Marx makes the point that oppression was conceived by different political groups in South Africa and was ultimately influenced by how each group fought apartheid.

“It does a nice job of showing how ideas (as opposed to interests) influence political action,” MacDonald said.

One of the more controversial changes that Marx may soon implement at Amherst would be the restoration of a core curriculum. While he said that he personally had a positive experience with taking core classes, he also conceded that, “you cannot impose curricular changes upon a faculty that will not be willing to teach it.” He expressed that it was important to open up discussion of the matter.

He also explained that he would like Amherst to take a greater part in helping to improve public education, and stated that increasing community service among students was another of his goals.The overall reception of Marx has been positive. Said Williams President Morton Owen Schapiro, who was asked to nominate candidates for the position, “While I haven’t met Tony Marx yet, I hear great things about him. Tom Gerety has been a wonderful friend and colleague and I look forward to establishing a similar relationship with his successor.”