Carolyn Martin

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Biddy Martin
Biddy Martin cropped.jpg
19th President of Amherst College
Assumed office
Preceded byAnthony Marx
Personal details
Born1951 (age 69–70)
EducationCollege of William and Mary (BA)
Middlebury College (MA)
University of Wisconsin, Madison (PhD)

Carolyn Arthur "Biddy" Martin (born 1951) is an American academic, author, and the current president of Amherst College, in Amherst, Massachusetts.[1]

Before becoming president at Amherst, she was Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where she assumed office on September 1, 2008, succeeding John D. Wiley. She was the ninth graduate of UW–Madison to serve as its chancellor, and the first alumna to hold that position. She was the university's second female chancellor, after Donna Shalala, and also the university's first openly lesbian chancellor.[2]

Before becoming chancellor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, she was Provost of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York from July 1, 2000 until August 31, 2008. As provost, Martin served as chief academic officer and chief operating officer, providing leadership for deans of Cornell’s 14 colleges and schools, as well as a number of centers and faculty advisory councils. She helped manage the institution’s academic programs, executive budgets, capital budgets and operating plans.[3] Martin worked on Cornell's academic faculty for 15 years prior to her appointment as provost.[4]

Early life and career[edit]

Martin grew up in Timberlake, Virginia, just outside Lynchburg. The women in her family shared the name Carolyn, earning nicknames "Buck" (grandmother), "Boolie" (mother), and "Biddy" for Martin.[5] She graduated from Brookville High School in 1969,[6] where she was valedictorian and set the school scoring record for girls' basketball.[5] She received her undergraduate degree from the College of William and Mary in 1973,[7] where she was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. She earned an M.A. in German Literature from Middlebury College’s program in Mainz, Germany and received her Ph.D. in German Literature in 1985 from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and joined the faculty at Cornell the same year.

In 1991, she was promoted to associate professor in the Department of German Studies with a joint appointment in the Women’s Studies Program. She served as chair of the Department of German Studies from 1994 to 1997, and in 1997 was promoted to full Professor. In 1996, she was appointed Senior Associate Dean in the College of Arts and Sciences, a position she held until 2000.[8] Between 2000 and 2008, she assumed the role as Cornell's Provost. She served as Chancellor of UW-Madison from 2008 to 2011. In 2018, she was elected a Fellow of the Harvard Corporation, which oversees Harvard College.[9]

Martin is the author of numerous articles and two books—one on a literary and cultural figure in the Freud circle, Lou Andreas-Salomé, and the other on gender theory.[10]

In 2012, during Martin's tenure as president of Amherst College, twenty-year-old student Trey Malone committed suicide by jumping from the Sunshine Skyway Bridge over Tampa Bay; reportedly as a result of the school's inaction and mishandling of his sexual assault by another student.[11] In Malone's suicide note, which was published by The Good Men Project, it was alleged that President Martin's first question to the student upon meeting him to discuss the assault was: "Have you handled your drinking problem?" [12] The purported mishandling of Malone's case and his subsequent suicide raised the question within the media of victim blaming by college administrators around the country.

Major initiatives[edit]

Cornell (2000–2008)[edit]

During her tenure as provost, Martin led a faculty salary-improvement program, oversaw Cornell's interdisciplinary Life Sciences Initiative, authorized a National Science Foundation ADVANCE grant proposal to enhance recruitment and retention of women in science and engineering and established and developed a budget for Cornell's Center for a Sustainable Future.[13]

Financial Aid Initiative[edit]

In 2008, Martin announced a financial aid initiative aimed at eliminating need-based loans for all undergraduate students from families with incomes under $75,000. The purpose of the initiative was to make it possible for new students to graduate debt-free.[14][15]

New Student Reading Project[edit]

Martin started a reading project for incoming students, recruiting more than 200 faculty volunteers to lead small-group discussions with new students. The project has become a collaborative activity with the city of Ithaca.[13]

Joan and Sanford Weill Life Sciences Building[edit]

Martin oversaw the $150 million creation of the Joan and Sanford Weill Life Sciences Building, a 250,000-square-foot (23,000 m2) building that serves as the university's hub for life sciences and interdisciplinary collaborations. It is home to the Weill Institute for Cell and Molecular Biology and the Department of Biomedical Engineering.[13]

University of Wisconsin–Madison (2008–2011)[edit]

As chancellor, Martin led successful initiatives to increase need-based financial aid, improve undergraduate education, and enhance research administration. The Madison Initiative for Undergraduates promoted student advising, innovations in undergraduate programs, and faculty diversity. Martin also spearheaded an effort to gain greater operating flexibility and increased autonomy for Wisconsin’s flagship campus.[16] Martin advocated for diversity during her tenure. At the 2008 Diversity Forum, she closed the event stating, "We are a plural people whose joint efforts are required to address the world's problems. ... Interactions are key to realizing our full potential as human beings and groups."[17]

Madison Initiative for Undergraduates[edit]

Martin's first major policy initiative as Chancellor was the implementation of an incremental four-year tuition increase plan called the Madison Initiative for Undergraduates. This plan pays for more undergraduate course offerings, additional faculty and staff to teach those courses, enhanced student services, and supplemental (and eventually complete) financial assistance for students whose families make under $80,000 a year. The plan was approved by the Board of Regents on May 8, 2009.[18]

Go Big Read![edit]

Martin has also created the university's first Common Read program, known as Go Big Read!, which began in Fall 2009. The inaugural selected title was In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, by Michael Pollan. For Fall 2010, the announced selection was The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.[19]

New Badger Partnership[edit]

In 2010, Martin initiated a series of public fora concerning what she described as a "new business model for UW–Madison." This proposal, called the "New Badger Partnership," was purportedly intended to safeguard the university finance and help mend the state's fiscal gaps. As part of this proposal, Martin called for "greater flexibility for the university, combined with reasonable forms of accountability and more effective operations" which "can strengthen the university's position and its ability to serve the state."[20] Among its early stated aims were the ability to set market-based tuition, provide more financial aid and compensate faculty separately from pay plans for other state agencies.[21] The most radical feature of this plan involved the separation of UW-Madison from the University of Wisconsin System, and redesignating it as a public authority governed by an independent Board of Trustees. The plan, however, proved polarizing, and Martin left for Amherst the following year.



  • Woman and Modernity: The (Life)Styles of Lou Andreas-Salomé, Cornell University Press, 1991.
  • Femininity Played Straight: The Significance of Being Lesbian, Routledge Press, 1996.


  • "Sexualities without Genders and Other Queer Utopias", Diacritics, vol. 24, no. 2/3, Critical Crossings (Summer–Autumn, 1994), pp. 104–121.


  1. ^ "Carolyn A. Martin, Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Named 19th President of Amherst College". Retrieved 14 June 2011.
  2. ^ "New UW-Madison chancellor settles in, takes on financial aid, faculty building". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. September 2, 2008. Retrieved 2010-02-21.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-06-01. Retrieved 2008-05-28.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ Wu, Venus. "University Bids Farewell To Provost Biddy Mart". Cornell Sun. Archived from the original on 2011-08-16. Retrieved 2008-09-03.
  5. ^ a b Williams-Masson, Ellen. "The Chancellor is in". Brava Magazine. Archived from the original on 2011-07-07. Retrieved 2011-06-04.
  6. ^ Laurant (July 10, 2008). "A 'Biddy' leader takes on a big job". The News & Advance. Archived from the original on October 8, 2011. Retrieved July 17, 2011.
  7. ^ Whitson (2011-06-16). "W&M's 'Biddy' Martin '73 named Amherst College president".
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-09-12. Retrieved 2011-05-31.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ "Harvard's Governing Boards Refreshed". Harvard Magazine. May 23, 2018. Retrieved October 20, 2018.
  10. ^ [1][dead link]
  11. ^ "Amherst College student Trey Malone's suicide increases pressure for sexual abuse reforms". 13 November 2012.
  12. ^ "Lead a Good Life, Everyone: Trey Malone's Suicide Note". 5 November 2012.
  13. ^ a b c Ju
  14. ^ Ju, Anne. "Biddy Martin leaves a multifaceted legacy at Cornell". Chronicle Online. Retrieved 2011-06-03.
  15. ^ Wu, Venus. "University Bids Farewell To Provost Biddy Martin". The Cornell Daily Sun. Archived from the original on 2011-08-16. Retrieved 2011-06-03.
  16. ^ Durhams, Sharif (May 27, 2011). "UW-Madison chancellor says plan to split from UW System unlikely". Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 2011-05-31.
  17. ^ Oviliera, Pedro (September 24, 2008). "Martin shoots for diversity dialogue". Badger Herald. Retrieved 2011-06-01.
  18. ^ Perez, Erica (May 8, 2009). "Madison Initiative for Undergraduates passes easily at Regents meeting". Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 2011-05-17.
  19. ^ Pflughoeft, David (October 25, 2010). "Go Big Read author speaks at Kohl Center". Badger Herald. Retrieved 2011-05-17.
  20. ^ Forster, Stacy. "Community invited to forums on new UW-Madison business model". UW-Madison and the State Budget. Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2011-05-17.
  21. ^ Scanlan, Mike. "Looking Ahead: the New Badger Partnership". The Daily Cardinal. Retrieved 2011-05-17.[permanent dead link]

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Anthony Marx
President of Amherst College
2011 – present
Succeeded by
Preceded by
John D. Wiley
Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin–Madison
September 2008 – July 2011
Succeeded by
David Ward
Preceded by
Don Michael Randel
Provost of Cornell University
2000 – 2008
Succeeded by
W. Kent Fuchs