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Daily News

AMHERST — Amherst College named Angie Tissi-Gassoway its new chief Student Affairs officer (CSAO) and dean of students. She will be responsible for all functions of the Office of Student Affairs, including residential engagement and well-being, housing and operations, identity and cultural resources, counseling and mental health, student activities and leadership, health and community safety services, accessibility, case management, community standards, new student programs and orientation, and immigration and visa services. The appointment is effective immediately.

Tissi-Gassoway has served as the interim CSAO since February, before which they served as the interim chief Equity and Inclusion officer for 14 months.

Tissi-Gassoway joined Amherst in July 2012 as an area coordinator in Residential Life and, since then, has held various roles in the offices of both Student Affairs and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), including director of the Queer Resource Center, assistant dean of students and director of Identity and Cultural Resources; and associate dean of students for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. During that time, she co-led new-student orientation and co-developed the social-justice leadership LEAP program, founded and served as the inaugural director of the Queer Resource Center, and helped to establish a structure and expansion of the college’s cultural and identity resource centers, including the creation of the inaugural affinity-based graduation ceremonies, which have become a cherished tradition at Amherst.

To reinforce the college’s commitment to inclusion and community, Tissi-Gassoway spearheaded the “I Belong” campaign, the Day of Dialogue on Race and Racism, the Amherst Reflects series, and the Cultural Heritage Committee. In the past year, they co-created and launched the Civil Rights and Title IX Office in the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and worked side-by-side with the provost’s office to recruit and retain a diverse faculty. They also currently chair the recently formed Campus Safety Advisory Committee.

Tissi-Gassoway has dedicated the last 20 years of their career to student affairs and diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education. Prior to their tenure at Amherst College, they served in Mount Holyoke College’s Health Education office. Before that, Tissi-Gassoway worked at Oregon State University, where she first found her passion for community building, equity, and student engagement. She earned a master’s degree in education in social-justice education from UMass Amherst and a master’s degree in public health and bachelor’s degree from Oregon State University.

“I am honored to serve as Amherst’s chief Student Affairs officer and dean of students,” Tissi-Gassoway said. “It is a true privilege to work with our remarkable students, engage our collective community, lead the extraordinary team of Student Affairs, and collaboratively advance the work of community, equity, and belonging at the college.”

Daily News

AMHERST — Amherst College named Michael Thomas its new chief financial and administrative officer (CFAO). On the finance side, he will be responsible for all finance functions of the college, including budgeting, accounting, financial reporting, long-range financial planning, and asset, liability, and risk management. On the administrative side, Thomas will oversee facilities, health and safety, and business services (dining and auxiliary), among key operating functions.

He joins Amherst from Middlebury College, where he was vice president for Administration and chief risk officer for the past two years and vice president for Finance and assistant treasurer for the previous four and a half years. He will report to and serve as a strategic partner to President Michael Elliott. His appointment is effective March 27, and he succeeds former Amherst CFAO Kevin Weinman, who became the president of Marist College in the fall of 2021.

In his more than nine years at Middlebury, Thomas led all aspects of financial matters, including accounting, financial systems and reporting, budgets, debt and cash management, and endowment reporting, as well as risk evaluation, campus safety, environmental health and safety, emergency management, and land and property management. He led several critical initiatives for the Middlebury enterprise, including the institution’s COVID-19-related operations; a student safety coalition initiative at the college; the acquisition, financing, and renovation of a residential housing facility of Middlebury’s Institute of International Studies at Monterey in California; the implementation of an enterprise resource planning system for a consortium of higher-education institutions, for which he serves as secretary of the board; and a major long-term financial-sustainability plan.

Before that, he was the controller and director of financial resources for Skidmore College (2006-13); the controller, manager of Financial Systems and Accounting, and a financial analyst for General Electric Silicones, Americas (1999-2006); and an associate at PriceWaterhouseCoopers (1995-98). He graduated from Union College with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and from the University at Albany with a master’s degree in accounting.

“I am excited to be joining Amherst College as the CFAO,” Thomas said. “I look forward to working with President Elliott and getting to know and work with the students, faculty, and staff to support the mission of the institution. Supporting Amherst College in the education of some of the brightest minds from around the world is an honor.”

Daily News

AMHERST — The Board of Trustees at Amherst College announced Wednesday that Michael Elliott, a 1992 graduate, has been named the next president of the institution. 

He will succeed Carolyn ‘Biddy’ Martin, who announced last year that she would retire from the presidency but continue teaching at the college. He is expected to begin work August 1. 

Elliott has been the chief academic and executive officer of Emory College of Arts and Science in Atlanta since 2016. 

He earned a doctorate in English and comparative literature at Columbia University in 1998. His bachelor’s degree from Amherst consisted of a dual major in Russian and English. 

Daily News

AMHERST — The Drake, the Downtown Amherst Foundation’s (DAF) soon-to-open arts and cultural venue, will be the permanent home of a Steinway & Sons piano, thanks to a gift from the Amherst College Department of Music. The department donated the instrument after the college made a $100,000 gift to the Drake project in January 2022.

“This is a game changer for the caliber of performers the Drake will be able to entice to play in Amherst and yet another incredible show of commitment from Amherst College to our downtown, to Amherst as a whole, and to the arts and culture of the Valley,” said Gabrielle Gould, DAF’s executive director. “We are beyond thrilled and in awe of this instrument and what it will offer to our community over the years.”

Steinway pianos are widely recognized as the best pianos made. The specific model the college is donating, the Steinway B, is considered the finest high-resolution piano in the world, and is generally used in mid-sized venues like the Drake, according to the Steinway & Sons website. The instrument will arrive after construction is complete in April.

“We thought it only fitting that, after the college made an investment in the venue itself, the department make its own investment in the music that will be made in the Drake,” said Darryl Harper, associate professor of Music, chair of the Music Department, and director of the college’s Center for Humanistic Inquiry, adding that his colleague Jeffers Englhardt, professor of Music, had the idea for and coordinated the donation. “We can’t wait to see what performers take the stage at the Drake and what beautiful music is created on a piano that has been played by many talented college students, faculty and other artists. We also can’t wait to see what kinds of partnerships and programs the college and the Drake will make happen.”

The Downtown Amherst Foundation is in the final stages of fundraising for the Drake, Amherst’s first dedicated live performance and music venue. In addition to the music-loving supporters who have donated to the Drake’s Patronicity page, Amherst College, the town of Amherst, and the Massachusetts Executive Office of Economic Development have offered support to the project.