Amherst College is a small, private liberal arts college based in Amherst, Massachusetts. It is highly selective, and frequently ranks well among liberal arts colleges in the US.
It was founded in 1821 with just 47 students, as a place for ‘young men of piety and talents for the Christian ministry’. A popular legend says that books were taken from the neighbouring Williams College – from which Amherst branched – and moved to the Amherst library. In 1835, Amherst staff began planning a more comprehensive course of studies covering sciences and modern languages, with less focus on Latin and Greek.
Amherst was seen as a religiously conservative college, with students expelled for playing cards or drinking, and less devout students rounded up and denounced for their lack of piety. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the college became more secularised. In 1975, the college became open to female students.
Today, Amherst offers four-year undergraduate courses with around 40 major programmes. Students can create their own interdisciplinary major, picking from advanced and introductory courses in sciences, arts, humanities and interdisciplinary fields throughout their education. As a member of the Five College Consortium, students may attend classes at the four other member institutions, expanding the number of courses available to Amherst students to more than 5000.
In 2007, Amherst replaced loans with grants for students from low-income backgrounds, continuing a charitable tradition rooted in its deeply religious origin.
Amherst claims to have the oldest collegiate athletics programme in the US, and to have hosted the first intercollegiate basketball game. Ultimate Frisbee was founded by Armherst students in the 1960s.
Notable alumni include President Calvin Coolidge, renowned economist Joseph Stiglitz, and Clarence Birdseye, the father of frozen food.