Columbia’s 2014 Honorary Degree Recipients Announced
Columbia University will confer eight honorary degrees and recognize the alumni recipient of its University Medal for Excellence at commencement exercises on Wednesday, May 21. In alphabetical order, the recipients are:
- Joseph B. Keller, Doctor of Science
- A mathematician of broad acclaim and accomplishment, Keller’s research concerns the use of mathematics to solve problems of science and engineering. Among other breakthroughs, he developed the Geometrical Theory of Diffraction to describe the propagation of waves. It is widely used to analyze radar reflection from objects, to calculate elastic wave scattering from flaws in solids, to study acoustic wave propagation in the ocean and for other purposes. He is also known for his formulation of the EBK method of quantization to determine energy levels of atoms and molecules in quantum mechanics and to solve characteristic value problems in other fields. From the 1940s to 1979, he was on faculty at New York University before moving to Stanford, where he continues as Professor Emeritus. Among many other awards, he is the recipient of the Wolf Prize, the Frederick E. Nemmers Prize and the National Medal of Science.
- Renzo Piano, Doctor of Humane Letters
- Born in Genoa, Italy, to a family of builders, Piano has designed iconic buildings all over the world, including the Kimbell Art Museum, the Menil Collection and the Nasher Sculpture Center in Texas, the reconstruction of Potsdamer Platz in Berlin, the London Bridge Tower — known as The Shard — in London, and The New York Times headquarters and the extension in the Morgan Library in New York. He partnered with Richard Rogers in the early 1970s on the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Piano created the master plan for Columbia’s Manhattanville campus and designed its first three buildings — the Jerome L. Greene Science Center, the Lenfest Center for the Arts and the Academic Forum conference facility. It is the first campus plan in the nation to earn LEED Platinum for sustainable neighborhood development. A recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1998, he is active with the Renzo Piano Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to architectural education. In September 2013, Piano was appointed Senator for Life by the Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.
- David Remnick, Doctor of Letters
- Editor of The New Yorker since 1998, Remnick has written more than 100 articles for the magazine, including features on Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Shimon Peres, Ralph Ellison, Katharine Graham, Pope John Paul II, Michael Jordan and Barack Obama. Since he became editor, The New Yorker has won thirty National Magazine Awards, including five Awards in both 2001 and 2005. In 2000, Advertising Age named him Editor of the Year. Remnick joined The New Yorker after a decade at The Washington Post, where he covered stories for the Metro, Sports and Style sections. In 1988, he began a four-year tenure as Moscow correspondent for the Post, an experience that formed the basis of his 1993 book on the former Soviet Union, Lenin's Tomb. In 1994, the book received both the Pulitzer Prize from Columbia and a George Polk Award for excellence in journalism. He has contributed to many other publications, edited five anthologies of New Yorker pieces and written several books, including his most recent, The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama (2010).
- David Rosand, Doctor of Letters
- Currently the Meyer Schapiro Professor Emeritus of Art History at Columbia, Rosand has taught at the University since 1964. Beginning with his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Columbia, he has woven teaching and scholarship together as the fabric of his career. His scholarship has focused on the Italian Renaissance and on the art of Venice in particular, on the history and criticism of the graphic arts, and on the status of the artist as a creative individual. He is a leading authority on the art of Titian and Veronese. He is project director for Save Venice, Inc., an organization dedicated to the conservation of the art and monuments of the city on the lagoon. Winner of numerous awards, including the Paul Oskar Kristeller Lifetime Achievement Award from the Renaissance Society of America, he has served in several administrative capacities at Columbia and was responsible for the establishment of the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery.
- Robert B. Silvers, Doctor of Letters
- Among the founders of The New York Review of Books in 1963, Silvers was its co-editor for more than forty years along with Barbara Epstein. Since 2006, he has been its editor. Silvers and Epstein published essays by Andrei Sakharov, Václav Havel, Fang Lizhi and other leading dissidents who were persecuted for their advocacy of human rights. Previously, Silvers was an editor at The Paris Review and at Harper’s Magazine. He is the author or editor of several books, including most recently, The New York Review Abroad: Fifty Years of International Reportage. He has been a trustee of The New York Public Library since 1997 and is currently on the board of directors of the American Ditchley Foundation and The Paris Review Foundation. Among numerous honors, he was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Obama and was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2013.
- Natasha Trethewey, Doctor of Letters
- The nineteenth Poet Laureate of the United States, Trethewey is the author of four collections of poetry, Domestic Work (2000), Bellocq’s Ophelia (2002), Native Guard (2006) — for which she received the Pulitzer Prize — and, most recently, Thrall, (2012). Her book of non-fiction, Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, appeared in 2010. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Beinecke Library at Yale, and the Bunting Fellowship Program of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard. A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, she is Robert W. Woodruff Professor of English and Creative Writing at Emory University. Her signature project as U.S. poet laureate involves traveling around the country meeting with the public to seek out the ways that poetry flourishes in American communities. In 2012 she was also named Mississippi’s poet laureate.
- Cicely L. Tyson, Doctor of Humane Letters
- Actress, advocate and humanitarian, Tyson is renowned for her portrayals of strong characters on stage, screen and television. Perhaps best known for her double Emmy performance in the title role of The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, Tyson was nominated for an Academy Award for Sounder and received her third Emmy Award for The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All. She was also Emmy nominated for her performances in Roots, King, Sweet Justice, The Marva Collins Story and A Lesson Before Dying. After a thirty-year hiatus from the Broadway stage, she returned in 2013 as Mother Carrie Watts in Horton Foote’s The Trip to Bountiful, winning the Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle awards for Best Actress in a Play. She is the recipient of countless awards including several NAACP Image Awards as well as the NAACP’s highest honor, the Spingarn Award. Since 1996, she has served as the guiding force of the Cicely L. Tyson Community School of Performing and Fine Arts, a $143 million institution of academic and creative expression serving 1,200 K-12 students in East Orange, New Jersey.
- Alisa Weilerstein, University Medal for Excellence, awarded annually to an outstanding Columbia graduate under the age of 45
- A 2004 graduate of Columbia College with a degree in Russian history, Weilerstein is an American cellist who has earned widespread praise for playing that combines a natural virtuosic command and technical precision with impassioned musicianship. She made her Cleveland Orchestra debut at age 13, playing the Tchaikovsky “Rococo” Variations, and made her Carnegie Hall debut with the New York Youth Symphony in March 1997. She has appeared with the major orchestras and renowned conductors of the United States and Europe, while also finding time to return to campus for solo concerts. Her current season includes engagements with the Boston, Cincinnati, Dallas, Houston, San Francisco, and Toronto symphonies and the Chicago, Israel, and Los Angeles philharmonics. In 2010 she became an exclusive recording artist for Decca Classics, the first cellist to be signed by the prestigious label in more than thirty years. In 2011 she was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow.
- Mortimer B. Zuckerman, Doctor of Laws
- The chairman and editor-in-chief of U.S. News & World Report and chairman and publisher of the New York Daily News, Zuckerman is also the co-founder and executive chairman of Boston Properties Inc. and a regular commentator on The McLaughlin Group. A generous philanthropist, he is a trustee of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and a past president of the board of trustees of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. With a transformative gift to Columbia in 2013, he established the Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute at the Jerome L. Greene Science Center on the University’s Manhattanville campus. Broadly engaged in foreign policy issues, he is vice chair of the International Peace Institute, co-chair of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Cyber Security Task Force, member of the Trilateral Commission, former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and former president of the America-Israel Friendship League.
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Five Columbia faculty members have been inducted into the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine. They are James J. Cimino, adjunct professor in the Department of Biomedical Informatics; Quarraisha Abdool Karim, associate professor of epidemiology; Gerard Karsenty, Paul A. Marks Professor of Genetics & Development; Michael Shadlen, professor of neuroscience; and Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, Mikati Foundation Professor of Biomedical Engineering.
Herb Gans, the Robert S. Lynd Professor Emeritus of Sociology and special lecturer in sociology, was awarded the 2014 William Foote Whyte Career Achievement Award for sociological practice and public sociology