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Campus Revolutionary

Tony Marx has a radical plan to get more poor kids into top colleges, starting with Amherst

Anthony W. Marx had never even thought of being a college president. "I was minding my own business" as a Columbia University political science professor in 2002, he says, when a friend who was an Amherst College alum put Marx's name in the hopper to be president of the Massachusetts liberal arts institution. Sure, Marx was flattered, but he also felt underqualified. A career academic, his most important administrative experience had come before graduate school, when he helped found a college in South Africa to educate blacks deprived by apartheid. "That is very nice," he wrote back to his friend. "But I've never been a chairman, a dean, or a provost, and besides, I didn't go to Amherst."

Amherst's search committee felt the same way and tossed his file into the reject pile. But after grilling many top college honchos, a student member remembered Marx and suggested that the group give him a second look.