Celebrated alumna and academic Carolyn “Biddy” Martin ’73, L.H.D ’12 to address students at Opening Convocation


Former president of Amherst College, notable author and academic Carolyn Arthur “Biddy” Martin ‘73 will give a welcoming speech to new students at the College of William and Mary during the 2023 Opening Convocation on Wednesday, Aug. 30. 

“We have in Dr. Martin a trailblazing alumna, an accomplished professional and an unwavering advocate for broad-based, multidisciplinary education,” College President Katherine Rowe said in the W&M News announcement article. “Dr. Martin exemplifies the impact of a W&M education, distinguished by personalized learning with world-class faculty.” 

Martin graduated from Brookville High School near Lynchburg, Virginia in 1969 as valedictorian of her graduating class. As a student at the College, Martin studied English literature and was a member of the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa honor society. 

After receiving her undergraduate degree, Martin acquired her Master of Arts in German literature from Middlebury College’s program in Mainz, Germany and her Ph.D. in German Literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Martin has additionally received an honorary degree from the College during the 2012 Commencement ceremony. 

After obtaining her Ph.D., Martin began her two-decade career in 1983 as a faculty member and an eventual provost at Cornell University, making her the first female provost of Cornell in her role as the chief academic officer and chief operating officer in 2000. Martin remains the longest-serving provost at Cornell and is widely recognized for her contributions to the campus through the addition of interdisciplinary programs, a notable financial aid initiative and the Joan and Sanford Weill Life Sciences Building. 

Shortly after her time at Cornell, Martin became the chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she led successful initiatives to improve financial aid for need-based students and the overall quality of undergraduate education, as well as increasing the autonomy of UW-Madison’s flagship campus. 

Martin began her time as the 19th president of Amherst College in 2011, making her the first woman to serve as the presidential figure of the college, as well as the college’s first lesbian president. Martin retired in 2022 after many accomplishments involving fundraising and faculty-hiring at Amherst. 

Martin is the author of multiple articles and two published books and will join the advisory board of the Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. in Nov. 2023.


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