Notable Speakers and Remarkable Graduates Highlight 2012 University Commencement

May 11, 2012Bookmark and Share
Commencement 2012


Some of Columbia's graduating student veterans

This year, approximately 13,423 degrees will be conferred on graduates from Columbia University’s three undergraduate and 13 graduate schools, as well as affiliated institutions Barnard College and Teachers College. There are many ceremonies planned, but the class of 2012 isn't official until the University commencement ceremony, held on Wednesday, May 16, when President Lee C. Bollinger tells the graduates that they have been admitted “to the degree for which you have qualified.”

The commencement exercises of Columbia's 258th academic year include twenty events taking place between Saturday, May 13, and Thursday, May 17. Some ceremonies, including the main commencement, will be webcast live and archived.

Columbia will confer six honorary degrees and one alumni Medal for Excellence at the main commencement ceremony on the Morningside Heights campus. That night, from dusk until after midnight, the spire of the Empire State Building will be lit in blue and white in honor of Columbia’s graduates.

Each of the University’s graduate and undergraduate schools hosts its own Class Days and graduation ceremonies, in addition to the gathering of more than 40,000 graduates, families and friends at the May 16 University Commencement. 

Some of the speakers scheduled include U.S. Army General George W. Casey at the School of General Studies Class Day; Ursula Burns, chairman and CEO of Xerox Corporation, at the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science Class Day; Michelle Bachelet, under-secretary-general and executive director of U.N. Women and former president of Chile, at the Mailman School of Public Health graduation ceremony; Elizabeth Nabel, president of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and former director of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, at the College of Physicians and Surgeons; and David Brooks, columnist at The New York Times, at Columbia Journalism School.

President Barack Obama (CC’83) will be speaking at the graduation ceremony of Barnard College, the women's liberal arts college affiliated with Columbia, on Monday, May 14. 

This year's six honorary degree recipients are: Jazz musician and composer Muhal Richard Abrams, Doctor of Music; former President of Chile Michelle Bachelet, Doctor of Laws; biomedical engineer Shu Chien, Doctor of Science; Latin American scholar Jean Franco, Doctor of Letters; University of Pennsylvania president Amy Gutmann, Doctor of Laws; author and advocate Gloria Steinem, Doctor of Laws. The University Medal for Excellence, awarded annually to outstanding alumni under the age of 45, will be presented to Thomas Kitt (CC’96), a musical director, composer, conductor and arranger on Broadway.

Columbia will present 10 Alumni Medals for outstanding work on behalf of the University. This year’s awardees include:

  • Rosa V. Alonso, 1982 B.A., Barnard College, 1994 M.B.A., Columbia Business School
  • Raymond P. Daddazio, 1975 B.S., 1976 M.S., 1982 Eng. Sc.D., The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science
  • Robert H. Douglas, 1970 B.A., Columbia College
  • Alexis Gelber, 1974 B.A., Barnard College, 1980 M.S., Columbia Journalism School
  • Kay Crawford Murray, 1958 M.A., Teachers College, 1976 J.D., Columbia Law School
  • Hau Yee Ng-Lo, 1989 M.B.A., Columbia Business School
  • David B. Ottaway, 1963 International Fellow, School of International and Public Affairs, 1968 M.A., 1972 Ph.D., Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
  • David P. Roye, Jr., 1975 M.D., College of Physicians & Surgeons
  • Nicholas Rudd, 1964 B.A., Columbia College; 1967 M.B.A., Columbia Business School
  • Barbara Silverstone, 1973 Ph.D., School of Social Work

During commencement ceremonies, the University will honor outstanding faculty. Recipients of this year’s teaching awards include:

  • Jonathan Barasch, associate professor of medicine and pathology and cell biology, College of Physicians & Surgeons
  • John C. M. Brust, professor of clinical neurology, College of Physicians & Surgeons
  • Samuel G. Freedman, professor, Columbia Journalism School
  • Carol B. Liebman, clinical professor of law, Columbia Law School
  • Eric R. Mendelsohn, associate professor of professional practice in film, School of the Arts

—by Columbia News Staff

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Standing on South Lawn, Commencement Day 1910Sitting on the grass for the Commencement Day speaker in 1917Mrs. Mary Butler, wife of Columbia's 12th president Nicholas Murray Butler, with others at the 1917 CommencementWomen walking down the steps of Low Library during 1918 CommencementBefore the bleachers: An overview of Commencement in 1919A glimpse at the 1922 class parade—when parades preceded the Commencement ceremonySetting up the chairs for Commencement, with Alma as the centerpiece, in 1933Columbia's 13th President, Dwight. D. Eisenhower, at the 1948 CommencementSome things never change: parenting and graduating in 1953Commencement in 1966Present Day: 2011 Commencement

Through the Years: Columbia Commencement

Take a look at how Commencement at Columbia has changed through the years. 

In Memoriam: Joseph F. Traub

Professor Joseph F. Traub, founder of the Computer Science department, died Monday, August 24, 2015 in Santa Fe, NM. He was 83. Most recently the Edwin Howard Armstrong Professor of Computer Science, Traub was an early pioneer in the field.

Traub's work on optimal algorithms and computational complexity applied to continuous scientific problems. 

Read more about Professor Traub.

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