He is an alumnus of the Bronx High School of Science after which he attended Wesleyan University and Yale University; in 1981 he received a B.S. magna cum laude from Yale. He received an M.P.A. from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University in 1986, followed by M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Princeton in 1987 and 1990.
After graduating from Yale, Marx spent a year in South Africa participating in the anti-Apartheid movement. Even after returning to the U.S. for graduate school at Princeton, he returned frequently to participate in the founding of Khanya College, a secondary school which prepared black students for university.
According to BusinessWeek, one reason the Amherst Board of Trustees chose Marx as president is his support for socioeconomic diversity on college campuses. One of Marx's goals is to make Amherst more accessible to qualified students from lower income families. Marx supports the 'QuestBridge College Match' program at Amherst. According to their webpage QuestBridge is, "…an alternative college admission and financial aid process specifically tailored to bright, motivated low-income students. [An] alternative process aids low-income students in presenting a full picture of their intellectual promise and personal qualities in light of their limited resources".
Marx is author of three books on nation-building, and has concentrated on South Africa.
He is married to Karen Barkey, a professor of history and sociology at Columbia University. They have two children, Joshua and Anna-Claire.
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