The hot topic at Williams College in the early 19th century was the potential relocation of the institution. The college’s depleted funds and declining income made a move east to Hampshire County seem inevitable. The debate split the Williams community into two factions, and when the proposed move was ultimately rejected by the Massachusetts Legislature in 1820, those in favor of the move left Williamstown to open Amherst College.
Amherst prides itself on its history of diversity. Edward Jones, class of 1826, was the college’s first African-American graduate. Amherst also admitted America’s first Japanese student, who graduated in 1870. Ironically, Amherst did not admit women until 1975.
Today, Amherst is widely regarded as an extremely selective and highly distinguished liberal arts school. Amherst still has an intense rivalry with Williams College, though today it plays out in athletics.
Schwemm’s Coffeehouse is an ideal place for students taking a quick study break or looking for a pick-me-up, snack, or just a place to sit and be social. Located in the Keefe Campus Center in the heart of campus, its peak hours are at night, but it sees a lot of action during lunchtime and in the late afternoon. Wraps, sandwiches, homemade treats, sodas, teas, and of course coffee are just some of the food and drinks students can buy with their Amherst cards. In the next room over, the newly-opened game room boasts a ping-pong table, two pool tables, a jukebox, and two arcade games. Some students are able to tune out the noise flowing into Schwemm’s from the game room to get some studying done, but most go to Schwemm’s to take a break from work, to socialize, or to just satisfy their appetite.
On sunny days in the spring and warm days in the fall, students flock to the Freshman Quad or Memorial Hill. Some play Frisbee and others sit with friends while catching some rays. These outdoor spots are also a nice alternative for those looking to study who don’t want to be cooped up in their dorm rooms or the library. Memorial Hill has a beautiful view overlooking the Holyoke Range, and at the base of the hill is Amherst’s baseball field. The best afternoons to lie on the soft grass there come when the clouds are few, the baseball team has a game, and the breeze is blowing softly. During the fall, when the leaves are bursting with shades of yellow, orange, and red, looking out over the Holyoke Range can be truly breathtaking.
As difficult as it is to admit this, the Frost Library is one of the major hangout spots here at Amherst. Students know how to have fun here, but they also know how to buckle down and get schoolwork done. The library is popular for those seeking a quiet place to read, a desk on which to spread out all their coursework, or a computer to use to crank out a paper. The multimedia floor, the library’s A level, has a bunch of computers and large desks in mini-cubicle areas. It is the most popular level and often the nosiest, where the sounds of students typing away on keyboards mixes with whispers from friends talking amongst themselves. During finals week, the keyboard clicking becomes louder and the whispers fewer, and it is nearly impossible to find an open computer.”
Amherst is a town of 34,000 located in Western Massachusetts’ Pioneer Valley. With two other colleges in Amherst (the University of Massachusetts – Amherst and Hampshire College) and others nearby, Amherst is truly a college town. Students can walk or use local buses to navigate the region, and campus is about two hours west of Boston by car.
It can be hard to find a stretch of flat land in Amherst, as Western Massachusetts’ countryside has loads of rolling hills that feed into Hampshire County’s small mountain ranges. On downtown Amherst’s main street you can find bookshops, coffee houses, pizza places and ice cream bars in which to study, relax, eat, and socialize.
Massachusetts is known for its cold, snowy winters, so it’s no surprise that Amherst students embrace the snow with one its traditions, as reported by Peter Harrison ’11:
“After a fresh snowfall, and especially at night, many Amherst students grab trays from the dining hall and sled down Memorial Hill. Sledders pick up speed easily sliding down Memorial on their centimeter-thick trays. Nearly all rookies go out of control on the way down, typically ending their first run with a laughable wipeout.
For many Amherst seniors, Senior Bar Night is one of the week’s highlights. An email gets sent out to the entire senior class explaining which bar is on tap for that night; however, most seniors simply go to the bar that their friends are at or where the social scene is most lively. The Monkey Bar, Amherst Brewery, and the Pub are just a few of the locations where Amherst students fill up. The social scene is more laidback – and more expensive – at the bars than at on-campus parties.”
Dan Brown (1986) is the author of The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons.
Calvin Coolidge (1895) was the 30th president of the United States, serving from 1923 to 1929.
Francisco G. Flores (1981) was the president of El Salvador from 1999 to 2004.
Albert A. L. Grimaldi (1981) is also known Albert II, Prince of Monaco.
Burgess Meredith (1931) was an Academy Award-nominated actor.
Charles E. Merrill (1908) was one of the founders of Merrill Lynch & Company.
Joseph E. Stiglitz (1970) is one of the world’s premier economists.
Harlan Fiske Stone (1894) was Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court from 1941 to 1946.
Raymond J. Teller (1969) is a magician and half of the duo Penn and Teller.
Amherst’s athletic program was created in 1860, making it the oldest in the country. A majority of Amherst students take part in some form of collegiate athletics, either at the NCAA, club, or intramural level. Aside from a recent Division III basketball championship, Amherst can also brag about having taken part in the first intercollegiate baseball game in 1859, in which they beat Williams College 73-32. Amherst students love their Lord Jeffs and Lady Jeffs.
As reported by Peter Harrison ’11:
“In 2007 the men’s basketball team finished the season on top, winning the NCAA Division III Championship. Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams enjoy significant fan support during the winter season. The men spent much of the 2007 campaign atop of the rankings, and the women won the NESCAC tournament. The rivalry between Amherst and Williams is truly an incredible experience to be a part of. When the Williams basketball squad traveled to Amherst in 2007, not a seat in the stands was empty. Students from both schools sat on the floor, stood in the corners, and squeezed themselves into the bleachers to show their school pride. The atmosphere is always electric when the two colleges meet on the athletic fields and courts.”
Amherst alum Raymond Smith Dugan named an asteroid he discovered after the college. 516 Amherstia is in orbit between Jupiter and Mars.
It is said that the sport of Ultimate Frisbee was created at Amherst in the late 1960s.
2007 marked the completion of all the dormitory renovations in the freshman quadrangle. The freshman dorms - Williston, North, South, Charles Pratt, Stearns, and James - are among the most luxurious on campus. Incoming freshmen are spoiled by the shiny hardwood floors, new paint, beautiful common rooms, and comfortable furniture adorning each of these dorms. Just as most Amherst students agree that these dorms are among the best on campus, so too does nearly every Amherst student regard Charles Pratt as the most magnificent of the bunch. Incoming freshmen usually figure this out one way or another, and virtually every newcomer marks Charles Pratt as his or her number one pick for housing.
Located at the corner of the Freshman Quad next to the life sciences building, Charles Pratt is home to more than 110 first-years. Upon stepping into Charles Pratt, one can’t help but notice that it is not your average dorm. The large, wooden rafters towering nearly 30 feet overhead lend the dorm a ‘ski resort’ feeling, while the strong lights, beautiful staircase, and polished hardwood floors all make Charles Pratt feel a bit like a grand ballroom. The dorm is comprised of double rooms and also houses the student writing center and a tiled activity/dance room in the basement. The basement and the third floor both have real hallways and fewer wide-open common areas than those found on the first and second floors. Smaller common/study areas on the second floor are at the top of the main staircase across from the silent study room.
After freshman year, Amherst students have a variety of dorms to choose from on campus. The four-, five-, six-, and even ten-person suites in the Social Quad are a convenient option for upperclassmen who want to live with a handful of close friends. Comprised of Crossett, Davis, Pond, Stone, Coolidge, and Jenkins, the social quad earns its name from the party atmosphere that sweeps through these buildings every weekend. Most suites have singles (some have doubles) and a single bathroom branching off from the common area, which is convenient for large dance parties and other weekend social activities. Many students complain that Crossett, Davis, Pond, Stone, and Coolidge are not very aesthetically pleasing, and students often consider them to be rather grimy on the inside. The school plans to renovate the entire Social Quad sometime in the next several years. For now, however, they are the only options for students looking to live in suites.
Away from the Social Quad on the north end of campus are another handful of newly-renovated dorms. Around the circle and behind the library are Morris Pratt (not to be confused with Charles Pratt) and Morrow. The five floors in Morris Pratt and the four floors in Morrow are all comprised of double and single rooms. Similar to the freshman dorms, these buildings are now brightly lit, with shiny wooden floors and large, beautiful common areas. Across Route 9 are Cohan and Hamilton. Typically filled with thesis-writing seniors, these two dorms are quieter than the socials. Hamilton is comprised entirely of single rooms, while Cohan has a mix of singles and doubles.