Distinguished Speakers and Remarkable Graduates Highlight Commencement Ceremonies

May 18, 2010Bookmark and Share
Columbia’s undergraduate, graduate and professional schools, as well as affiliated institutions, held more than 20 class days and graduation ceremonies from May 14 to May 19, marking Columbia University’s 256th academic year. Most of the ceremonies were webcast live and can be seen in the archive.
 
Former President Bill Clinton and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (CC’73, Law’76) joined a number of distinguished speakers who over the course of several days addressed Columbia’s approximately 12,000 graduates.
 
Clinton spoke to graduates at the Mailman School of Public Health on May 17. Holder spoke at the Columbia Law School graduation ceremony on May 14, paying tribute to the “exceptional commitment and capacity” of young lawyers, who have played an integral role in shaping both the U.S. Constitution and the course of American history.
 
“Young people it seems to me are uniquely qualified to re-imagine, and in doing so to reinvigorate, the law and the world,” said Holder.
 
Although blessed with beautiful weather for most of the class days, the main commencement ceremony held on May 18 at the Morningside campus for some 40,000 graduates and their guests took place under rainy skies. President Lee Bollinger announced that he was invoking his executive authority to shorten sections of the outdoor event, which was met with approving cheers from the grateful crowd. He did not exempt the President’s traditional commencement address from the weather-induced editing. In his sharply abridged remarks, he shared an old piece of academic “folk wisdom,” that “if it rains on your commencement, you are guaranteed to have a fabulous life.” Bollinger urged the damp but joyful students under a sea of umbrellas and ponchos to consider just how “lucky” they were to graduate on such a day.
 
During the rain-shortened ceremony, the University conferred eight honorary degrees and two Medals for Excellence. The Medal for Excellence, awarded annually to outstanding alumni under the age of 45, was presented to Ron Gonen (MBA’04) and Dana Schutz (SoA’02). Columbia also recognized the service of outstanding alumni, as well as excellence in teaching among its faculty. Later in the evening, from dusk until after midnight, the lights of the Empire State Building were scheduled to glow in blue and white in honor of Columbia’s graduates.
 
Some of the 22 graduation ceremony speakers included Benjamin Jealous, chief executive of the NAACP, at Columbia College Class Day; Gail Collins, author and columnist for The New York Times, at the Graduate School of Journalism commencement ceremony; and Jacques Pépin, French chef and television personality, at the School of General Studies Class Day.
 
For the full list of the 2010 honorands, recipients of the presidential award for excellence in teaching and the alumni medalists, please visit the 2010 Columbia University Commencement website.
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Milestones

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.

The Record