Core Founders

Twenty years ago, the Trustees of Amherst College, owner of the Dickinson Homestead, accepted the transfer of the assets and property of the Martha Dickinson Bianchi Trust, owner of The Evergreens. So began the Emily Dickinson Museum – a visionary combination of the home where Emily Dickinson created some of the most powerful and enduring poetry in the English language and the remarkable material legacy filling The Evergreens. The two family homes and grounds are the very heart of Dickinson’s vast “circumference.”

The Dickinson Homestead as it appeared during Emily Dickinson's adult lifetime

Across these two decades, the Museum has built its annual audience from 7,000 to 20,000 and has established a significant global presence with online programming that reaches participants from more than eighty countries. An annual slate of fifty public programs examines the poetry of Emily Dickinson and influences upon it, explores elements of nineteenth-century life, features new Dickinson scholarship, and celebrates the contemporary creativity that Dickinson’s legacy continues to inspire.

A collection of approximately 8,500 objects – the largest non-manuscript holding in the world of original Dickinson family possessions – has been catalogued and made publicly accessible. The Museum has undertaken progressive stabilization and preservation measures leading now to restoration of the houses and grounds as they were in Dickinson’s own time.

These accomplishments were put in motion and sustained by an extraordinary group of imaginative, farsighted, and determined individuals we are pleased to recognize as the founders of the Emily Dickinson Museum.

Elizabeth (Lise) Armstrong grew up in Westchester County NY, graduated (1958) from Radcliffe College and spent her early adult years in child-raising and community activities. Upon moving to Amherst in 1995 she quickly became involved with “all things Emily”, helping to restore the Evergreens and enjoying events at the Homestead.  She has offered seminars on poetry and poets with the Five College Learning in Retirement program, most recently studying Robert Frost, Seamus Heaney, Sonnets and poetry performance.  And of course the poetry of Emily Dickinson continues to be a lifelong challenge.

John Armstrong moved to Amherst in 1995 after John’s retirement from IBM as VP of Science and Technology. John has both an AB (1956) and PhD (1961) in physics from Harvard. His interest in poetry predates his interest in physics by at least a decade. John has been a member of the Harvard Board of Overseers, a presidentially appointed member of the National Science Board, and a trustee of the University of Massachusetts system. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

Cindy Dickinson served as Curator/Director of the Dickinson Homestead from 1996 until 2003, when the Emily Dickinson Museum was created.  From 2003 to 2015, she held various positions at the Museum, including Director of Interpretation and Programming,  Since 2015 she has been the Director of Education at Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. She is not related to the poet.

Kent Faerber is a graduate of Amherst College and was its Alumni Secretary and then Secretary for Alumni Relations and Development (Chief Advancement Officer) for 17 years, consulting for it thereafter. He completed his professional career as the President of the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts.  Throughout, he has consistently volunteered in leadership roles for a variety of charities, one of the most important of which was the Emily Dickinson Museum. At the request of the College, he authored a consulting report listing the assets that would be available if The Evergreens and The Homestead were combined into a single museum, and thereafter became a Trustee of the Martha Dickinson Bianchi Trust (which owned The Evergreens). He then worked with the other Founders being recognized to execute the transfer of The Evergreens to the College, and the establishment of the Museum.  He served as the second Chair of its Board of Governors from 2006 – 2012. 

Thomas R. Gerety was Amherst College’s President from 1994-2003. Gerety has been a leader in several national education organizations, serving as chair of the Consortium on Financing Higher Education, a group of the nation’s best private universities and colleges. At Amherst, he was a professor of philosophy and taught a First-Year Seminar on “Inner City America,” in which students volunteer at social service agencies in Amherst and Holyoke.  From 1989 to 1994, Gerety was president of Trinity College in Hartford, Conn.  Before assuming the presidency at Trinity, Gerety was dean of the College of Law at the University of Cincinnati. Earlier, he was a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh and a visiting professor of constitutional law and jurisprudence at Stanford Law School. Gerety holds a J.D. from Yale Law School. He also earned doctorate and masters degrees in philosophy from Yale.

Julie Harris (d) was a Tony-, Emmy- and Grammy-winning actress and an Academy Award nominee, Julie Harris distinguished herself early in her diverse career a model for perseverance in the American entertainment industry. Though she made her Broadway debut in the forgotten 1945 flop, “It’s a Gift,” Harris returned to the Great White Way in a string of critical successes, drawing raves for her lead roles in “The Member of the Wedding” in 1951 and “I Am a Camera” the following year. In Hollywood, Harris coaxed a charismatic but inexperienced James Dean through his film debut in Elia Kazan’s “East of Eden” (1955) and later specialized in neurotic older woman roles, from the psychic spinster of “The Haunting” (1964) to the self-mutilating Southern belle of “Reflections in a Golden Eye” (1969). As lead roles in film dried up, Harris dove into work on stage and television, where she recreated several of her theatrical successes, including “The Belle of Amherst” (1976) and “The Last of Mrs. Lincoln” (1976). A diagnosis of breast cancer did not stop Harris from becoming a series regular on the long-running primetime soap opera “Knots Landing” (CBS, 1979-1993), nor did a stroke in 2001 keep the elderly actress from plying her trade by sculpting her characterizations around her physical limitations. Awarded the National Medal of the Arts in 1994, Harris was also the recipient of a 2002 Tony Award for lifetime achievement and a 2005 citation from the Kennedy Center for contributions to American culture through the performing arts. Julie Harris died at the age of 87 in August 2013.

Polly Longsworth moved to Amherst in the 1960s, she was astonished to discover that town residents still debated—even over the vegetable bins in the supermarket—the rights and wrongs of a passionate affair that Emily Dickinson’s brother sustained with the young wife of an Amherst College faculty member. Her research led to the publication, in 1984, of Austin and Mabel: The Amherst Affair and Love Letters of Austin Dickinson and Mabel Loomis Todd, named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

In subsequent years, Longsworth continued to write about the Dickinson family, expertly weaving together the threads of community and individual history in The World of Emily Dickinson and The Dickinsons of Amherst (with Jerome Liebling, Christopher Benfey and Barton Levi St. Armand). Ultimately, she was asked to chair the Martha Dickinson Bianchi Trust, owner of Austin’s former home, The Evergreens.

Longsworth was instrumental in the creation, in 2003, of the Emily Dickinson Museum, which encompasses both The Evergreens and the adjacent Dickinson Homestead—long held as separate trusts—and was elected the founding chair of the new institution’s board of governors. “She instinctively understood that combining the two historic sites would strengthen them both and better serve the public,” says museum director Jane Wald. Under Longsworth’s leadership, the museum developed a master plan for preservation and restoration, successfully completed its first capital campaign, expanded its hours and created a unified visitor experience, significantly enhancing its educational mission and widening its circle of supporters in the process.

A 1955 graduate of Smith College, where she edited the campus news­paper, Longsworth later worked in publishing and began writing her first of several books for adolescents in 1958. Her biographical research and writing continued amid raising four children and assisting in the demanding public life of her husband, Charles Longsworth ’51, who served as president of Hampshire College and subsequently of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

Charles R. Longsworth, class of 1951, is chairman emeritus of the college’s Board of Trustees. He served as president of Hampshire College (1971-1977) and coauthored with former Hampshire president, Franklin Patterson, The Making of a College: Plans for a New Departure in Higher Education. From 1977 to 1992, he served as president of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and then CEO and chairman (1991-1994). In 1993, he became director of Saul Centers Inc.

George Monteiro was a graduate of Cumberland High School, Brown University (A.B. and Ph.D.) and Columbia University (A.M.).  The son of Portuguese immigrant mill workers, George taught American literature at Brown for 42 years, retiring in 1998, and was also founding Director of the Center for Portuguese and Brazilian Studies.  The author of more than 30 books and hundreds of articles on American and Portuguese literature and culture, he was also an accomplished poet.  George was a Fullbright professor of American Literature at the University of Sao Paulo and was knighted by the Portuguese Government with the Order of Prince Henry the Navigator for Distinguished Contributions to the Study and Dissemination of Portuguese Culture.

Leslie A. Morris is Gore Vidal Curator of Modern Books and Manuscripts, Houghton Library, Harvard University. As curator of the Harvard Emily Dickinson Collection, she has overseen the digitization of that collection to make it more widely available, and furthers access to Dickinson’s poetry as General Editor of the online Emily Dickinson Archive, a collaborative project with 13 libraries to make images of Dickinson’s manuscripts freely available. She is the author of the historical Forword to Emily Dickinson’s Herbarium (Belknap Press, 2007), as well as numerous articles on book collecting and bookselling. Her other curatorial responsibilities include oversight of Houghton’s post-1800 collections, including the papers of John Keats, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Jamaica Kincaid, Andrei Sakharov, and John Updike (among others) and the LSD Library, a large multi-format collection of material on altered states of mind.

Barton St. Armand received 3 degrees from Brown University, AB 1965, MA 1966, PHD 1968 — all in the department of American Civilization, of which he eventually become the chair. He also served stints as a Fulbright Professor of American Literature at the Universities of Sophia, Rikkyo and Waseda in Japan and as a French National Scholar at the University of Toulouse. He has lectured around the world under the auspices of the U.S. State Department and was invited to be a special lecturer at Capital University in Beijing, China. HIs scholarly work has focused on interdisciplinary cross-cultural connections, in particular the intersection of American painting with literature. 

William McC Vickery (d) was born in Savannah, Ga., Bill attended Ridgewood High School in New Jersey. At Amherst he majored in economics and graduated cum laude. After earning an MBA from Harvard Business School, he launched a 27-year career in advertising with Dancer Fitzgerald Sample in New York City. In 1987 Vickery retired as vice chair of the company’s board and chair of DFS International. Throughout his career in advertising in New York, Bill served in a dazzling number of volunteer roles for the College: he was class agent, class president, president of the New York alumni association, member and chair of the executive committee of the Alumni Council, President of the Society of the Alumni, and chair of the Alumni Fund. It is no surprise that the College awarded him the Medal for Eminent Service in 1979 and the Distinguished Service Award in 1983.

Philip S. Winterer was a Trustee of Amherst College (1993-2010) and is a Life Trustee (2005-present). Philip is a retired senior partner and former managing partner with the law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton, one of the country’s most prominent and selective corporate law firms.  He joined the firm as an associate after earning his law degree at the Harvard Law School in 1956.  He was elected partner in 1965. He was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Law Institute.

Karen Sánchez-Eppler is L. Stanton Williams 1941 Professor of American Studies and English at Amherst College where she has taught since 1988, including the frequent pleasure of teaching a seminar on Emily Dickinson in collaboration with the Emily Dickinson Museum, a class that often meets in the poet’s house. She served on advisory committees for the care of the Dickinson Homestead for a decade before the Emily Dickinson Museum was founded, was part of the Museum’s founding Board of Governors, and has served on the Emily Dickinson Museum Board for all but four years since. The author of Touching Liberty: Abolition, Feminism and the Politics of the Body (1993) and Dependent States: The Child’s Part in Nineteenth-Century American Culture (2005), and co-editor with Cristanne Miller of The Oxford Handbook of Emily Dickinson (2022). She is currently working on two book projects The

Unpublished Republic: Manuscript Cultures of the Mid-Nineteenth Century US and In the Archives of Childhood: Playing with the Past. Her scholarship has been supported by grants from the NEH, ACLS, the Newberry Library, the Winterthur Library, the Stanford Humanities Center, and the Fulbright Foundation. She spent the 2019-20 academic year as Distinguished Scholar in Residence at the American Antiquarian Society, is one of the founding co-editors of The Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth, past President of C19: The Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists, President of the Porter- Phelps-Huntington Foundation Board of Directors, and a member of the board of the Emily Dickinson International Society, charged in recent years with organizing the Critical Institute for emerging Dickinson scholars and programing for the Society’s Annual Meeting.

Jane Wald became the first (and only) Director of The Evergreens in 2001 and joined the staff of the Emily Dickinson Museum when it was created in 2001. As executive director since 2006, she has led planning and preservation efforts, particularly  the restoration of the Dickinson Homestead and stabilization of The Evergreens. Her research and writing has focused on the cultural and material context of Dickinson’s life and work, including essays published in The Blackwell Companion to Emily Dickinson, Emily Dickinson Journal, The Oxford Handbook of Emily Dickinson, and Emily Dickinson Electronic Archive. She holds an AB from Bryn Mawr College and an MA from Princeton university, and she completed advanced study at the College of William and Mary.

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