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Bye, bye Biddy

You have to wonder how long this was in the works, or whether it was an escape hatch just in case she lost her power struggle with the Board of Regents and UW System, which

From: Chancellor Biddy Martin [mailto:[email protected]] Sent: Tuesday, June 14, 2011 10:42 AMTo:  Subject: Chancellor to lead Amherst College

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

I write to inform you that I have accepted the presidency of AmherstCollege, and I will conclude my term as chancellor of the Universityof Wisconsin-Madison later this summer.

The decision to leave UW-Madison is one of the most difficultdecisions I have ever made. I love this university. I loved it when Iwas a student. I was shaped by its lively intellectual culture and byits great teachers, from Klaus Berghahn to Elaine Marks and GeorgeMosse. It has been a joy to be back and an honor to serve as itschancellor. I will miss the extraordinary beauty of the campus,Madison's lakes, my view of our students climbing Bascom Hill, thestate's majestic capitol building and my home at Olin House. More thananything, of course, I will miss you -- the faculty, staff, students,alumni and supporters of UW-Madison.

UW-Madison is one of the world's public treasures, and it deserves thesupport of every citizen of the state and every branch of stategovernment, just as the state deserves the benefits of having a greatresearch university. I am proud of the fact that we have succeeded inmoving the New Badger Partnership forward. The plan passed by theLegislature's Joint Committee on Finance takes a positive step towardallowing UW-Madison to adapt to changing circumstances, as it must, ifit is to continue to flourish as one of America's premier publicuniversities. That is what the New Badger Partnership is designed todo.

The future of UW-Madison is bright because of the quality of itsstudents, the caliber of its faculty, the professionalism of itsstaff, the loyalty of its alumni, the generosity of its donors, theuniversity's commitment to the people of Wisconsin and the public'sdevotion to the university. The Wisconsin Idea was born at UW-Madisonand has distinguished it for a century. It will always define thisuniversity, and I will always be honored to have been part of it.

I feel lucky to have glimpsed the future of interdisciplinaryscientific innovation in the faculty who now do their work in theWisconsin Institutes for Discovery and in the Wisconsin Institutes forMedical Research.  I am fortunate to have witnessed the socialinteractions that are highlighted and enabled by the new Union South,to have helped attract the public-private match in support of thehumanities, and to have celebrated the academic successes of so manyfaculty, staff and students. I will miss the community-widediscussions of the books we have read together, student performancesof all sorts, watching football games from the sidelines and shootingfree throws in the Kohl Center. My memories of our victories overpreviously unbeaten Ohio State at Camp Randall and again at the KohlCenter this past year will remain vivid forever. I will never forgethow to Bucky.

It is a privilege to be a Badger.

In the end, I have made the very difficult decision to leave a place Ilove for an institution that I have long admired because of what Iconsider to be a unique opportunity. I was educated in the liberalarts at the College of William and Mary, and I am deeply in its debt.There are a wide variety of forces arrayed against the benefits of theliberal arts today, yet I believe fervently in the importance of anational commitment to the fundamentals -- a broad and integratededucation in the arts and the sciences. The strength of Americanhigher education is its diversity, and the continued success of theAmerican experiment, depends on the accessibility of many forms ofadvanced learning. As we consider the future of the United States andits place in the world, technology, innovation and medicalbreakthroughs are all essential, and a great research university withUW-Madison's mission will continue to produce them. Great liberal artseducation is also critical to ensuring these very achievements andguaranteeing that they are continually renewed.

Education and research in the fundamentals of the sciences,humanities, arts and social sciences provide the foundation on whichso many other forms of learning and practical solutions depend.Preserving and enhancing these fundamentals is our best hope forcitizens who are prepared to answer questions of meaning and value,even as they contribute to the global economy, to education, toscientific discovery, to cultural diplomacy and to a renewal of ourpolitical institutions. We need leaders who understand how thesedomains are interrelated, who can think about them in theircomplexity, who can push the boundaries of language and other media,and who care about creating opportunity at a time when economic andsocial disparities threaten to tear apart the fabric of our democracy.

Amherst is the premier model of the kind of liberal arts education weneed to nurture and propagate, and I want to play a role in promotingit. It is among the most diverse liberal arts colleges in the country,as well as being among the most selective; it has shown thatinclusiveness and excellence are complementary, not contradictory. Itsfaculty has an unwavering devotion to the intimate art of teaching,even as its members pursue advanced research across a broad range ofendeavors. The integration of research and teaching is one ofAmherst's hallmarks. Further, the college seeks to inculcate the idealof service and public engagement in its graduates, whatever walk oflife they may pursue. For liberal arts education as a whole, AmherstCollege is pointing the way by its actions. The chance to combine mybelief in the transformative potential of the liberal arts with thepresidency of the leading liberal arts college in the country is thebest opportunity I can imagine. I would have left UW-Madison at thispoint for no other school and considered no other. I look forward toteaching Amherst's students, supporting its great faculty, workingclosely with its dedicated staff, engaging with its vibrant alumnicommunity and leading the college's ongoing efforts to serve as amodel of quality, diversity and invigorating intellectual exchange.

At a moment such as this, it is hard not to cast a look backward --and forward. I am delighted that Wisconsin's great flagship will moveinto the years ahead with new kinds of flexibility as it takessignificant steps toward the operational autonomy it needs. I hopethat a future chancellor will pick up the effort as politicalcircumstances permit. When I arrived in 2008, I drew on what I learnedfrom you, using that information to articulate a number of goals:successful recruitment and retention of faculty, which would beenabled only if we found new ways to ensure we could providecompetitive pay; enhanced administrative infrastructure for thisamazing research enterprise; tuition at the median of our public peerswith significantly increased need-based financial aid; transformationsin undergraduate education to ensure that our students reap thebenefits of studying at a world-class research institution; increaseddiversity among students, faculty and staff; a stronger internationalpresence; invigoration of the Wisconsin Idea; improved communicationsand relations with the public; and new developments in our operationalmodel that would keep pace with rapid changes in higher educationfinancing. With the increases to faculty salaries at the point ofpromotion, assistance with compression issues and the achievements ofthe New Badger Partnership, the university will be in a betterposition to support its faculty and staff. The organizational changesto research administration will help ensure that UW-Madison'sextraordinary research enterprise continues to thrive. Our stillrelatively new Office of University Relations has enhanced our reachand strengthened our relationships.

I am especially proud of our success at increasing the financial aidavailable to our students, adding faculty and staff in areas that ourstudents need, and improving undergraduate education through theMadison Initiative for Undergraduates. We have increased institutionalgrant aid by 226 percent. Though there is still a long way to go, theGreat People Scholarship campaign is poised to generate a great dealmore support. UW-Madison can price itself in way that combines averagetuition with outstanding quality, and I hope it will. The Class of2016 will include a larger number and percentage of targeted minoritystudents. Our presence in China and the opportunities it has createdfor our faculty, staff and students are a source of particularsatisfaction to me. These accomplishments have been the work of manyhands. They will pay off for years to come.

UW-Madison students: You have been a complete joy. Our interactions,whether serious or fun, have been a deep pleasure that I will rememberfor the rest my life. I will miss you enormously and think fondly ofeverything from our book discussions, our interactions on matters ofgovernance, your indulgence of my dog Oscar, your sense of humor andyour signature jump around.

UW-Madison faculty and staff: I will continue to be inspired by thequality of your research and scholarship, your dedication to teaching,your support of our core mission, your commitment to the WisconsinIdea and the entrepreneurial spirit that helps make this such a uniqueplace. I will remember fondly and miss so many in the university andMadison communities, more than I can possibly say.

Finally, I am happy to point out that by assuming the presidency of aDivision III institution, I can remain an unconflicted -- indeed, arabid -- Badger fan forever, and I look forward both to seeing the UWtake home the Paul Bunyan Axe once again and to seeing Amherst beatWilliams at their 126th meeting this fall.

I thank all of you for your support and your contributions toUW-Madison, and I wish everyone well.

Chancellor Biddy Martin

Published

June 14, 2011 - 11:17am

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