UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy Elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences

Selected as an academic leader, Subbaswamy honored for his excellence
Kumble R. Subbaswamy
Kumble R. Subbaswamy

AMHERST, Mass. – University of Massachusetts Amherst Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy has been elected as a new member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. He joins a distinguished roster of esteemed figures in the arts and sciences, business, philanthropy and public affairs honored by the prestigious academy for their leadership and dedication to excellence.

The academy was established in 1780 by the country’s founders, including John Adams and John Hancock, to provide guidance to a young nation that would face challenges and need expertise and excellence to emerge stronger. “We are honoring the excellence of these individuals, celebrating what they have achieved so far, and imagining what they will continue to accomplish,” said David Oxtoby, president of the American Academy. “The past year has been replete with evidence of how things can get worse; this is an opportunity to illuminate the importance of art, ideas, knowledge, and leadership that can make a better world.”

“It is no surprise to any of us at UMass that the American Academy of Arts & Sciences recognizes what we see every day,” said UMass President Marty Meehan. “Chancellor Subbaswamy is a transformational academic leader and he continues to bring UMass Amherst to great heights.”

“Chancellor Subbaswamy personifies academic leadership as he deals with the many challenges of running a public flagship campus,” said UMass Board of Trustees Chairman Robert Manning. “On behalf of the UMass Board of Trustees, I want to congratulate Chancellor Subbaswamy for this special honor and to thank him for continuing to so ably lead the Amherst campus.”

Subbaswamy said, “I am grateful to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences for this honor, particularly in light of those who have come before me, and with me. It inspires me to work harder to advance further the ideals and mission of the academy.”

Subbaswamy was elected into the academy as one of seven leaders in the educational and academic leadership section. Serving as chancellor since 2012, Subbaswamy is the 30th leader of UMass Amherst. He has emerged as a popular and well-regarded chancellor for his pursuit of academic excellence, promotion of research and outreach, and initiatives aimed at addressing campus climate, diversity, and culture. He has also made sustainability a campus priority and he is focused on strengthening community relationships, supporting area communities, and increasing access to the university’s rich academic and research resources.

He has overseen the opening of new cutting-edge academic, research and athletic facilities, including the Commonwealth Honors College, the Integrative Learning Center, the Life Sciences Laboratories, a new physical sciences building, the Isenberg School of Management’s Business Innovation Hub, the Football Performance Center and a newly renovated Student Union Building. Additionally, Subbaswamy has presided over UMass Amherst’s dramatic rise in the U.S. News and World Report Guide to Colleges’ rankings, where the university currently sits at 26th among the nation’s top public research universities.

Before coming to Amherst, Subbaswamy served as provost at the University of Kentucky since 2006. A physicist, he joined Kentucky’s faculty in 1978 after serving as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of California, Irvine. During his first 18 years at the University of Kentucky, he served as associate dean of arts and sciences and as chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

In other administrative positions, Subbaswamy was also dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Miami from 1997 to 2000. Then he left to become dean of arts and sciences at Indiana University Bloomington, serving until 2006 when he moved to Kentucky. He holds a bachelor’s degree in science from Bangalore University, a master’s in physics from Delhi University, and a Ph.D. in physics from Indiana University. He was elected a fellow of the American Physical Society in 1989. His primary research area is the optical properties of novel materials and nonlinear excitations. He has published more than 60 articles and coauthored a book on the local density theory of polarizability.

Founded by American Revolutionary Leaders

The academy was founded by American Revolutionary era leaders who believed the new republic should honor exceptionally accomplished individuals and engage them in advancing the public good. The academy’s dual mission remains essentially the same today with members from increasingly diverse fields working together to share ideas and recommendations in the arts, democracy, education, global affairs, and science. Of note, 55% of the members elected in 2021 are women.

A total of 252 new members were named this year. The new class of 2021 joins academy members elected before them, including Benjamin Franklin (elected 1781) and Alexander Hamilton (1791) in the 18th century; Ralph Waldo Emerson (1864), Maria Mitchell (1848), and Charles Darwin (1874) in the 19th century; Albert Einstein (1924), Robert Frost (1931), Margaret Mead (1948), Milton Friedman (1959), Martin Luther King, Jr. (1966), and Anthony Fauci (1991) in the 20th century; and more recently Antonin Scalia (2003), Andrea Ghez (2004), Bryan Stevenson (2014), Nicholas Kristof (2017), John Legend (2017), Viet Thanh Nguyen (2018), and Anna Deavere Smith (2019).

Subbaswamy joins several other UMass Amherst colleagues in the ranks of the academy. They include Gretchen Gerzina, professor of English; Lila Gierasch, distinguished professor of biochemistry and molecular biology; Laura Haas, professor and dean of the College of Information & Computer Sciences; John McCarthy, provost and senior vice chancellor for academic affairs, and distinguished professor of linguistics; Robert Sproull, adjunct professor of computer sciences; and Barbara Partee, distinguished university professor emerita in linguistics and philosophy.