In 1836, the Reverend George Washington Gale headed west from upstate New York to establish a prairie college dedicated to access for all students regardless of race, gender, or means. One hundred and seventy-four years later, Dr. Teresa L. Amott traveled west from upstate New York in July 2011, to become the first female president of Knox College.
"Knox was founded on the principles of inclusion and access to education of the very highest quality, and my election as president is just another step in the direction established long ago," says President Amott, who has served as provost and dean of the faculty at Hobart and William Smith Colleges for the last six years. "I am honored to be the first woman to serve as the president of Knox College."
President Amott has spent her adult life, as she says, on "one wonderful college tour." She received her bachelor's degree in economics from Smith College and her Ph.D. in economics from Boston College. She began her professional career at a liberal arts college -- Wellesley College -- and experienced faculty life at larger institutions, including the University of Massachusetts, before returning to the liberal arts setting, accepting faculty and administrative positions at Bucknell University, Gettysburg College, and Hobart and William Smith. "I know from my own experiences as a student, a faculty member, and an administrator that there is no setting more powerfully suited for learning than a residential liberal arts college."
|"It will not be easy, nigh impossible, to follow Roger and Anne Taylor, but their leadership and dedication to Knox will serve as a daily inspiration. I promised I wouldn't call him up too often ... but his good counsel will be invaluable to me."
-- Teresa Amott at the announcement of her election as 19th president, Monday, February 14, 2011
She was drawn to Knox, primarily, because of its mission and its people. "Every person who's been associated with Knox whom I've met has attested to its academic excellence and to its deep sense of community. It's clear that people feel a connection to the College that is a core part of their identity," she says. "I expected to find a sense of connection and loyalty when I first visited campus, but those feelings were even more powerful than I had imagined," she adds. "There's a warmth and thoughtfulness about Knox and a heartfelt dedication to the College's mission among all of its constituents."
President Amott's father was born in Kansas and lived in Illinois before serving abroad as a Foreign Service officer for nearly 40 years; her mother was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. President Amott spent the majority of her childhood abroad, and the experiences and skills she gained during this time she believes will serve her well at Knox. "We must prepare our students to be leaders in their local communities, wherever they may be, and simultaneously citizens of the world, interculturally competent and open to new experiences," she notes.
|"I believe that I can help draw in the resources needed if Knox is to achieve its highest hopes, expanding and deepening what it has done so well for so long."|
One of Knox's greatest challenges is its need for increased resources -- a challenge that President Amott believes she can help Knox meet. She worked closely with the current president of Hobart and William Smith to formulate and execute the school's capital campaign -- Campaign for the Colleges -- which recently surpassed its original goal of $160 million and is now targeted to reach $200 million. "Part of what drew me to Knox is that I believe that I can help draw in the resources needed if Knox is to achieve its highest hopes, expanding and deepening what it has done so well for so long," she says.
Her background as an economist also provides her with a unique perspective on Knox's financial challenges. "Being an economist has prepared me to target resources strategically to achieve an institutional mission, especially in this time of uncertain and constrained resources," she says. "I am impressed and inspired by the ways in which Knox has stayed true to its values in very difficult times."
President Amott has high aspirations for Knox in the next 10 years. Her first steps to achieving them as the 19th president are rooted in getting to know the Knox community and listening to their hopes and dreams. "What does the Knox community want for the future? How do they see their best selves? I look forward to meeting with the people who are Knox, on campus, in Galesburg, and across the country, to build a shared and capacious vision for Knox's future."