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Longtime Amherst College president to step down

Amherst College President Carolyn "Biddy" Martin in 2012For The Boston Globe/Globe Freelance

Amherst College President Carolyn “Biddy” Martin will step down at the end of this academic year, she announced on Monday.

Martin, who has served 11 years, will take a sabbatical year, and then return to teaching at the college. She called the decision extremely difficult.

“I love this place, its mission, its beauty, and the people who make it so extraordinary. I love the work,” she wrote in an e-mail to students, staff, faculty, and alumni announcing her departure.

“I look forward to writing and also to playing more, contributing to the causes that matter to me, and to a lasting relationship with many of you,” she added.

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Martin said she leaves the school in strong financial shape. The college has a $2.9 billion endowment.

Her announcement comes on the heels of one of the most trying academic years in modern history, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Academic administrators across the industry have departed or moved to other institutions in recent months.

Last academic year, the Amherst campus remained open and brought about half of its students back to campus, with the other half studying remotely. This year, the school has returned to fully in-person classes but set strict — and controversial — protocols for the first weeks on campus in an effort to curb any early spread.

Martin’s tenure as president was long by industry standards.

Earlier this year a former men’s lacrosse coach filed a federal lawsuit claiming he was a victim of discrimination while employed at the school and said he was wrongfully terminated.

In 2017 the school selected the mammoth as its official mascot following criticism of its unofficial mascot, Lord Jeffery Amherst, who commanded British forces in North America during the French and Indian War and supported giving smallpox-contaminated blankets to Indians, according to historians.

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In her final year, Martin said she hopes to end the college’s fundraising campaign a year early, provide support for faculty research, work toward making the school climate neutral by 2030, and make the institution more diverse and inclusive.