Columbia Announces 2010 Honorary Degree Recipients
Columbia University will confer eight honorary degrees and recognize two winners of its alumni Medal for Excellence at commencement exercises on Tuesday, May 18. The Medal for Excellence is awarded annually to outstanding Columbia graduates under the age of 45. Honorees this year include celebrated artists, noted educators and distinguished scholars. They are:
Bernard Bailyn, Doctor of Letters
The Adams University Professor and James Duncan Phillips Professor of Early American History Emeritus at Harvard, Bailyn is an historian of the American Revolution era and of the western hemisphere. His books include The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, which won the Pulitzer Prize and Bancroft Prize; The Peopling of British North America, an Introduction; and Voyagers to the West, which also won a Pulitzer and many other awards. His book The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson won the National Book Award. A former Pitt Professor at Cambridge and honorary fellow of Christ’s College, he has served as president of the American Historical Association. Bailyn is the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Society of American Historians and the Kennedy Medal of the Massachusetts Historical Society. He is a member of the British Academy, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Russian Academy of Science, the Academia Europaea, the Mexican Academy of History and Geography, the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Jacqueline Barton, Doctor of Science
The Arthur and Marian Hanisch Memorial Professor of Chemistry and chair of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at the California Institute of Technology, Barton is a Barnard graduate who went on to earn her doctorate at Columbia and serve on its faculty for several years. She has pioneered studies in the field of DNA research, including groundbreaking theories articulating how electrons migrate through the DNA double helix. Barton is the recipient of the Alan T. Waterman Award of the National Science Foundation, American Chemical Society Awards in pure chemistry, as well as the Nichols, Gibbs, Cotton and Pauling Medals. She is a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship and has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society and the National Academy of Sciences.
Geoffrey Canada, Doctor of Laws
President and chief executive of Harlem Children’s Zone since 1990, Canada is nationally recognized for his trailblazing work to help children and families in New York, and as a passionate advocate for education reform. A native of the South Bronx and graduate of Bowdoin College and Harvard’s School of Education, he was named one of America’s Best Leaders by U.S. News and World Report in 2005. In 2008, Houghton-Mifflin published Whatever It Takes by Paul Tough, a detailed look at Canada’s work and the accomplishments of Harlem Children’s Zone. Other feature coverage has come from 60 Minutes, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Today Show, Good Morning America, Nightline, CBS This Morning, Charlie Rose, National Public Radio, The New York Times, New York Daily News, USA Today and Newsday. Among Columbia’s collaborations with Harlem Children’s Zone is one with the Medical Center that helps local families deal with the many factors that contribute to childhood asthma, and another that places Business School students in internships with the group and offers management coursework to its staff members.
Ron Gonen, Medal for Excellence
Co-founder and chief executive of RecycleBank, a company he conceived while a student at Columbia Business School less than 10 years ago, Gonen has combined his entrepreneurial drive with a passion for environmental stewardship to become a widely recognized leader of efforts to create market incentives for “green actions.” By following standard recycling protocols, individuals and families earn rewards from more than 1,000 socially conscious service providers and retail partners—a benefit to business, consumers and the environment. Operating now in 18 U.S. states and in Britain, RecycleBank is expanding to college campuses, including Columbia, and is issuing rewards for switching to solar or wind power, riding public transportation and using water more efficiently. Prior to co-founding RecycleBank, Gonen was with Deloitte Consulting, developing, among other things, a unit dedicated to pro bono consulting services to non-profit and charitable organizations. Among other awards, he is a recipient of the United Nations Environment Programme Champion of the Earth Award in the Entrepreneurial Vision category.
C. Lowell Harriss, Doctor of Letters, posthumously
Long-time Professor Emeritus of Economics at Columbia, Harriss died on December 14, 2009. He earned his Ph.D. from the University in 1940 and served as a professor of economics until his retirement in 1981. He is the author of 16 books on economic theory, hundreds of related articles and was a tax policy consultant for the governments of the United States, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, China and France, as well as the United Nations. He served as executive director of the Academy of Political Science and a board member of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, fostering its mission to address issues of land use, regulation and taxation. Harriss’s other teaching engagements included stints at Stanford, Yale, Princeton, Penn, Peterhouse at Cambridge University, University of California at Berkeley, and Fulbright professorships at both the Netherlands School of Economics in Rotterdam and the University of Strasbourg in France. He has a professorship and two undergraduate scholarships named for him at Columbia.
Joel I. Klein, Doctor of Laws
Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education since 2002, Klein launched and has managed Children First, a comprehensive reform strategy designed to improve the city’s public schools. He attended New York’s public schools and graduated from William Cullen Bryant High School in Queens and from Columbia College—magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. He went on to Harvard Law School, again graduating magna cum laude. He began his career as a law clerk, first at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, then for Associate Justice Lewis Powell at the Supreme Court. He then spent nearly two decades working in public interest law and in private practice in Washington. Klein was Deputy White House Counsel to President Clinton from 1993-1995 and served as Assistant U.S. Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division until 2000. Before becoming Chancellor, he was chairman and chief executive of the media company Bertelsmann, Inc. He is a recipient of the College’s John Jay Award for distinguished professional achievement.
Tony Kushner, Doctor of Letters
A celebrated playwright, screenwriter and author, Kushner’s theater work includes Angels In America, Homebody/Kabul, A Bright Room Called Day, and Caroline, or Change, among others. He wrote the screenplay for Mike Nichols’s film version of Angels In America and for Steven Spielberg’s film Munich. His books include Thinking About the Longstanding Problems of Virtue and Happiness, Brundibar, and The Art of Maurice Sendak, 1980 to the Present. Kushner is a graduate of Columbia College and served for a time as theater critic for the Columbia Daily Spectator. He is the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, an Emmy Award, an Oscar nomination, two Tony Awards, three Obie Awards, an Olivier Award, two Evening Standard Awards, a New York Drama Critics Circle Award, two London Drama Critics Circle Awards, a Whiting Writer’s Fellowship, the PEN/Laura Pels Award for a Mid-Career Playwright, a Spirit of Justice Award from the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, and a Cultural Achievement Award from the National Foundation for Jewish Culture, among others. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2008, he was the first recipient of the Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award from the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust.
Koji Nakanishi, Doctor of Science
The Centennial Professor Emeritus of Chemistry at Columbia, Nakanishi is noted for his groundbreaking research on isolation and structural studies of natural products, vision and chiroptical spectroscopy. He determined the structures of 200 natural products and has published 800 papers. He joined the University in 1969 after more than a decade of teaching and research in Japan. He was a founding member and director of research at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology in Kenya from 1969 to 1977, and directed an international team of scientists at the Suntory Institute for Bioorganic Research in Osaka from 1978 to 1991. He is the recipient of Japan’s Order of Culture Medal, the Imperial Prize of the Japan Academy and the Nagoya Gold Medal, along with numerous other awards. The Nakanishi Prize of the American Chemical Society and the Chemical Society of Japan was established in 1996 and is awarded in alternate years in Japan and the U.S.
Dana Schutz, Medal for Excellence
An artist and 2002 graduate of Columbia’s School of the Arts, Schutz has exhibited her paintings widely in the United States and Europe, including solo shows at the Rose Museum at Brandeis University, Site Santa Fe in New Mexico, Cleveland’s Museum of Contemporary Art, Contemporary Fine Arts in Berlin and the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas. Her work is included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Guggenheim Museum, Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C., the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and the Museo di Arte Moderna e Comtemporanea di Trento Rovereto in Italy. She is the recipient of grants from the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation and the Rema Hort Mann Foundation.
Xu Bing, Doctor of Humane Letters
An artist and vice president of Beijing’s Central Academy of Fine Arts, Xu came of age during China’s Cultural Revolution. He graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees from the Academy and stayed on as an instructor of print making and calligraphy before accepting an invitation to continue his work at the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1990. Solo exhibitions of his work have been staged at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York and the Joan Miro Foundation in Spain, among others. Xu’s work has also been on view at the Venice Biennale, the Biennale of Sydney and the Johannesburg Biennale. He is the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize, the first Wales International Visual Art Prize and the lifetime achievement award of the Southern Graphics Council.
Columbia University mourns the death of Robert Belknap, professor emeritus in the Department of Slavic Languages, who died March 17. An expert in Russian literature, particularly Dostoyevsky, he also taught Literature Humanities in the Core Curriculum for 50 years and influenced generations of Columbia students. For more information, please visit this page.
Mary Bassett, associate professor of clinical epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health, was named New York City’s commissioner of health.
University Professor Ronald Breslow won the 2014 American Institute of Chemists Gold Medal, the AIC’s highest award.