Notable Speakers, Honored Scholars, Alumni and Faculty Highlight Graduation Ceremonies — May 16–21

Media contact/RSVP:  John Tucker, 212-854-6164,

NEW YORK, May 13, 2009—U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (CC’73, Law’76) will join a broad array of distinguished figures scheduled to address numerous ceremonies for Columbia University’s approximately 12,000 graduates. Events take place between Saturday, May 16 and Thursday, May 21.

The university will confer eight honorary degrees and one Medal for Excellence at its main commencement ceremony on Wednesday, May 20, at 10:30 a.m., at its Morningside Heights campus. During the ceremony, Columbia will also recognize the service of outstanding alumni, as well as excellence in teaching among its faculty.

Unless noted, the news media is invited to cover these events. Media wishing to cover commencement and/or Columbia College Class Day on Tuesday, May 19, at 9:30 a.m., must RSVP to
Commencement Day Details
WHAT:   More than 35,000 students, family members, faculty, staff and guests are expected to attend the commencement exercises of Columbia’s 255th academic year. Approximately 12,000 students are graduating.
WHO:   University President Lee C. Bollinger will present the commencement address.
WHEN:   Wednesday, May 20, beginning at 10:30 a.m. with the academic procession.
MEDIA:   Media check in will be conducted at the Amsterdam Avenue gate at 116th Street. Click here for a Morningside Heights map. The Broadway gate will be closed. For media who RSVP to, campus access and seating will be granted. There is no parking on campus. Gates open at 9 a.m. Television crews must arrive at 9:30 a.m. for set up. Mult box is provided. View a live Web cast here.
Notable Speakers
Columbia’s 13 graduate schools, and its three undergraduate institutions—Columbia College, The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, and the School of General Studies—have each scheduled special events in addition to the university’s main commencement. Some ceremonies will be Web cast and archived. To learn more, click here or call 212-854-6164. Speakers include: 
  • Bruce Greenwald, the Robert Heilbrunn Professor of Finance and Asset Management and director of the Heilbrunn Center for Graham and Dodd Investing, will speak at the Business School Executive M.B.A. Recognition Ceremony, 10 a.m., May 16, Roone Arledge Auditorium, Lerner Hall, Morningside Heights campus (Closed to media)
  • Robert Friedman, chairman and CEO of Radical Media, will speak at the Business School M.B.A. Recognition Ceremony, 3 p.m., May 17, South Lawn, Morningside Heights campus (Closed to media)
  • James Albaugh, executive vice president of The Boeing Company, will speak at The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science Class Day, 9:30 a.m., May 18, South Lawn, Morningside Heights campus
  • Brent Scowcroft, former U.S. national security adviser, will speak at the School of International and Public Affairs Commencement, 2 p.m., May 18, Riverside Church, 440 Riverside Dr.
  • Jeffrey Henig, professor of political science and education, will speak at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Ph.D. Convocation 1, 3:30 p.m., May 18, St. Paul’s Chapel, Morningside Heights campus
  • Philippe Reines, senior adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, will speak at School of General Studies Class Day, 5 p.m., May 18, South Lawn
  • Eric Holder, U.S. attorney general, will speak at Columbia College Class Day, 9:30 a.m., May 19, South Lawn. (Gates open at 8:30 a.m.; camera call at 9 a.m.)
  • Joshua Micah Marshall, founder of Talking Points Memo, will speak at Graduate School of Journalism Day, 10 a.m., May 19, Miller Theatre, Morningside Heights
  • Anne Higonnet, professor of art history and archaeology, will speak at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences M.A. Convocation, 10:30 a.m., May 19, Roone Arledge Auditorium
  • Alma Merians, professor and chair of the Department of Developmental and Rehabilitative Sciences at the College of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, will speak at the Doctor of Physical Therapy Graduation, 1:30 p.m., May 19, Alumni Auditorium, Columbia University Medical Center
  • Jagdish Bhagwati, University Professor and senior fellow in international economics at the Council on Foreign Relations, will speak at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Ph.D. Convocation 2, 3:30 p.m., May 19, St. Paul’s Chapel
  • Paul Farmer, the Maude and Lillian Presley Professor of Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School and founding director of Partners in Health, will speak at the Mailman School of Public Health Graduation, 3:30 p.m., May 19, New Balance Track & Field Arena, 216 Fort Washington Ave., at 168th Street
  • Rita Charon, professor of clinical medicine and director of the Program in Narrative Medicine at Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, will speak at the School of Continuing Education Class Day, 5 p.m., May 19, Roone Arledge Auditorium (Closed to media)
  • Dean Mark Wigley will speak at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation Professional Degree Commencement at 12:15 p.m. for second professional degree recipients, and at 2:15 p.m. first professional degree recipients, May 20, St. Paul’s Chapel (Closed to media)
  • Penelope Moyers Cleveland, president of the American Occupational Therapy Association, will speak at Occupational Therapy Commencement/Convocation and Awards Ceremony, 1:30 p.m., May 20, Alumni Auditorium, Columbia University Medical Center
  • Lawrence K. Altman, chief medical correspondent for The New York Times, will speak at the College of Physicians and Surgeons Commencement, 2 p.m., May 20, New Balance Track & Field Arena
  • Jerry Saltz, art critic and columnist for New York magazine, will speak at the School of the Arts Presentation of Diplomas, 2 p.m., May 20, Miller Theatre (Closed to media)
  • Donna Shalala, president of the University of Miami; and Phyllis Farley, founder of Doulas to Accompany the Dying, will speak at the School of Nursing Graduation,  2:30 p.m., May 20, New York City Center, 131 W. 55th Street, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues
  • Diane Aviv, president and CEO of Independent Sector, the national leadership forum for America’s nonprofit organizations, foundations and corporations, will speak at the School of Social Work Graduation, 3 p.m., May 20, Beacon Theatre, 2124 Broadway, at 74th Street
  • Alejandro Junco de la Vega, Mexican newspaper pioneer and publisher of Grupo Reforma, will speak at the Graduate School of Journalism Commencement, 3 p.m., May 20, Roone Arledge Auditorium
  • Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia’s Earth Institute and Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development, will speak at the College of Dental Medicine Graduation, 10:30 a.m., May 21, New Balance Track & Field Arena
  • Gray Davis, former governor of California, will speak at the Law School Graduation, 1 p.m., May 21, South Lawn
Honorary Degrees and the Medal of Excellence
Columbia will grant eight honorary degrees at this year’s commencement. Recipients are: 
  • Kwame Anthony Appiah, Doctor of Letters, a scholar of semantics, African studies and human identity and the Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Philosophy at Princeton
  • P.N. Bhagwati, Doctor of Law, former chief justice of the Supreme Court of India and a pioneer in the field of public interest litigation
  • Caroline Bynum, Doctor of Letters, a professor of European medieval history at the Institute for Advanced Study and the first woman to hold the title of University Professor at Columbia
  • Ainslie Embree, Doctor of Letters, a scholar of Indian and Asian studies who has made significant contributions to peace efforts between India and Pakistan
  • Paul Farmer, Doctor of Science, a medical anthropologist, physician and human-rights advocate, and the Maude and Lillian Presley Professor of Social Medicine in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School
  • Helene Gayle, Doctor of Law, president of CARE USA, a humanitarian organization credited with improving the lives of 65 million individuals living in poor communities across the globe
  • H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, Doctor of Law, a prominent businessman, philanthropist and Columbia trustee, and the founder of Lenfest Communications Inc.
  • Joseph Sax, Doctor of Law, one of the intellectual founders of the environmental movement in the U.S., widely considered the country’s leading scholar on water law
The Medal for Excellence, awarded annually to an outstanding graduate under the age of 45, will be presented to Kiran Desai (SOA’99), a writer whose second novel, The Inheritance of Loss, won the 2006 Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Fiction Award.
Alumni Awards for Life-long Achievements
Columbia will present 10 Alumni Medals for outstanding work on behalf of the university. Recipients will be recognized during commencement and honored at a dinner in conjunction with the Columbia Alumni Association Assembly Leadership Conference. Click here for a complete list of medalists. This year’s awardees include: 
  • Jacqueline Anne Bello (P&S’80) is a director of neuroradiology at Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the immediate past president of the New York State Radiological Society. She will be awarded the gold medal for meritorious service to the P&S Alumni Association.
  • Katharina Otto-Bernstein (CC’86,SOA’92) has been an independent filmmaker and author for 15 years. Her company, Film Manufacturers Inc., has produced numerous internationally acclaimed works. Most recently, she directed and produced the award-winning “Absolute Wilson,” which chronicles the life of theater artist Robert Wilson.
  • Richard M. Smith (JRN’70) is the chair of Newsweek, which he joined on a four-week writing tryout in 1970 and went on to lead as editor-in-chief from 1984 to 2007 and CEO from 1991 to 2007. In 2002, he received the magazine industry’s highest honor, the Henry Johnson Fisher Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Faculty Teaching Awards
Recipients of this year’s teaching awards include: 
  • Wendy K. Chung, assistant professor of pediatrics (in medicine), Department of Pediatrics
  • George Deodatis, Santiago and Robertina Calatrava Family Professor of Civil Engineering, Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics
  • Marguerite Y. Holloway, assistant professor of journalism, Graduate School of Journalism
  • Scott A. Snyder, assistant professor of chemistry, Department of Chemistry
  • Joseph Tenenbaum, Edgar Leifer Professor of Clinical Medicine, Department of Medicine
About Columbia University:
A leading academic and research university, Columbia University continually seeks to advance the frontiers of knowledge and to foster a campus community deeply engaged in understanding and addressing the complex global issues of our time. Columbia’s extensive public service initiatives, cultural collaborations, and community partnerships enrich campus life. They help define the University’s underlying values and mission to educate students to be both leading scholars and informed, engaged citizens. Founded in 1754 as King’s College, Columbia University in the City of New York is the fifth oldest institution of higher learning in the U.S.
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