Pulitzer Prize Award Celebrations With President Bollinger Over the Years

After the 2022 Pulitzer Prize dinner, Columbia News reflects on Bollinger's role at the awards and his commitment to free speech.

October 21, 2022

In 2002, when Lee C. Bollinger became the 19th president of Columbia University, he also became a Pulitzer Prize board member who was tasked with presenting the awards on the recommendations of the board. This was an apt responsibility for one of the nation’s foremost First Amendment scholars.

“As I have noted on many occasions, the inauguration of the Prizes was nearly simultaneous to the beginnings of the Supreme Court cases in 1919 that formed the basis of the modern notions we have now about the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and press,” said Bollinger at the 2018 Pulitzer Prize luncheon. “We are, indeed, fortunate that these, and other, bulwarks of freedom and respect for basic values of truth-seeking—and truth protection—in a framework of self-government and a Rule of Law—took root, prospered, and, I think, on the whole, succeeded.”

Below is a small selection of photos of Bollinger with past Pulitzer Prize award winners.

Adnan Abidi, Sanna Irshad Mattoo, Amit Dave and the late Danish Siddiqui of Reuters

2022 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Feature Photography

President Lee C. Bollinger with Yunus and Sarah Siddiqui, children of the late Danish Siddiqui, Adnan Abidi, and Amit Dave

These courageous photojournalists won the feature photography award for their "images of COVID’s toll in India." The perils of being a reporter was evident during this presentation. One of the awardees, Sanna Irshad Mattoo from Kashmir, was detained at the New Delhi airport on her way to New York City to accept her Pulitzer. And tragically, Danish Siddiqui, was killed in 2021 covering a clash between Afghan security forces and Taliban forces. His two children accepted the Pulitzer on his behalf.

Learn more about the winning work here. 

The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke, by Jeffrey C. Stewart

2019 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Biography

Jeffrey Stewart and President Lee C. Bollinger

Michael P. Jeffries in The New York Times wrote, “Jeffrey C. Stewart’s majestic biography, also titled 'The New Negro,' gives Locke the attention his life deserves, but the book is more than a catalog of this now largely overlooked philosopher and critic’s achievements.”

Learn more about the winning work here.

Staff of Reuters, with notable contributions from Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo

2019 Pulitzer Prize Winner in International Reporting

President Bollinger, Wa Lone, Kyaw Soe Oo

These Reuters journalists exposed Myanmar’s systematic killing of the Rohingya people. Two of the journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, were convicted under the Official Secrets Act and sentenced to seven years in jail because of this investigative reporting. Fortunately, they were released after 500 days in prison and just before the Pulitzer luncheon, which they were able to attend to accept their awards.

Learn more about the winning work here.

The New York Times, for reporting led by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, and The New Yorker, for reporting by Ronan Farrow

2018 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Public Service

President Bollinger, Megan Twohey, Jodi Kantor,

The reporting from Megan Twohey, Jodi Kantor, and Ronan Farrow exposed a culture of sexual abuse and predation in the workplace and included some of Hollywood's biggest power players. Their investigative journalism fueled the #MeToo movement and changed the way we view sexual harassment forever. 

Learn more about the winning work here.

DAMN., by Kendrick Lamar

2018 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Music

President Lee C. Bollinger and Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar made history as the first rapper to win a Pulitzer Prize. The Pulitzer board described his album as “a virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African-American life.”

Learn more about the winning work here.

Sweat, by Lynn Nottage

2017 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Drama

President Lee C. Bollinger and Lynn Nottage

Michael Billington in The Guardian wrote that Lynn Nottage's play "vividly describes the betrayal and resentments of striking female factory workers in an era of industrial decline." Nottage conducted extensive interviews in the rustbelt town of Reading, Pennsylvania, as the basis of her play.

Learn more about the winning work here.

Hamilton, by Lin-Manuel Miranda

2016 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Drama

President Lee C. Bollinger and Lin Manuel Miranda

Back in 2009, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist, but his smash-hit Hamilton was his play that won in 2016. Hamilton also garnered numerous other awards that year, including eleven Tony Awards and a Grammy.

Learn more about the winning work here.

The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen

2016 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Fiction

President Lee C. Bollinger and Viet Nguyen

The Pulitzer Prize board stated that The Sympathizer is "a layered immigrant tale told in the wry, confessional voice of a 'man of two minds'—and two countries, Vietnam and the United States."

Learn more about the winning work here.

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, by Siddhartha Mukherjee

2011 Pulitzer Prize Winner in General Nonfiction

President Bollinger and Sid Mukherjee

Mukherjee wrote a history of cancer, detailing the toll the disease takes on its hosts and past and future treatents. Janet Maslin in The New York Times wrote, "The overarching point made by his narrative is that the whole subject of cancer is dauntingly complex." 

Learn more about the winning work here.

Staff of The Boston Globe

2003 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Public Service

The Boston Globe team who won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service

President Lee C. Bollinger's first Pulitzer Prize Award luncheon happened in 2003. He presented the Pulitzer Prize in Public Service to the team from The Boston Globe, who broke open the sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church.

Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger presents Walter Robinson of The Boston Globe with the 2003 Pulitzer Prize in Public Service. Photo credit: Eileen Barroso

According to the Pulitzer Board, The Boston Globe won for "for its courageous, comprehensive coverage of sexual abuse by priests, an effort that pierced secrecy, stirred local, national and international reaction, and produced changes in the Roman Catholic Church." The story of their investigations was the basis for the 2015 critically acclaimed movie, "Spotlight."

Learn more about the winning work here.