Previous Recipients

2017

Admiral Michael Mullen
The Navy’s core values of “honor, courage, and commitment” perfectly describe a career—and a life—of service to our nation. Your piercing observation that “don’t ask, don’t tell” directed “young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens” will long be remembered for paving the way for the repeal of a policy that was beneath America’s values and its dignity. Through this honest, courageous, and principled reflection, you provided, not for the first time, an indelible example of leadership of the very highest caliber. What experience produces such a leader? Yours has been, in some respects, counterintuitive. Born to parents who worked amidst the glamour and spectacle of Hollywood, you never planned for a life in the military, deciding to travel east to Annapolis only after the Naval Academy offered a scholarship. After graduation and a tour of duty in Vietnam during one of that war’s bloodiest stretches, you felt compelled to wrestle with the impact of this controversial war on a divided nation. Eventually, you would come to distill your own lessons from that period. You made use of this formative experience over the course of a more than four-decade military career, distinguishing yourself as an astute strategist focused upon America’s role in the world, the proper balance of hard and soft power, and the connection between financial stability and national security. A steady ascent through the ranks culminated in your exemplary service for two presidents of different parties as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. During this time, you oversaw the end of the combat mission in Iraq and the development of a new military strategy in Afghanistan. You are admired across the military as a man of quiet candor, deeply committed to the welfare and reputation of the armed services and never without the time to talk to active service members and veterans about their personal struggles. We are fortunate, at Columbia, to have heard your experienced voice and wise counsel firsthand, as your partner in finally disposing of a half-century-old rift between higher education and the military over the presence of ROTC on university campuses. The historic rapprochement you helped to achieve led directly to the reinstatement on our campus of the Naval ROTC, a long overdue development in harmony with Columbia’s thriving community of student veterans and reservists. In this and other matters, you have urged the nation to bridge the divide between military and civilian society, reminding us that mutual respect between the two is a source of America’s strength. St. Francis of Assisi counseled that our lives on earth gain their meaning from “honest service, love, sacrifice, and courage.” It is the rare individual whose life is devoted to serving others, and rarer still to find such a public servant with the integrity and fortitude needed to call us to our highest ideals. You are such a person. For your service, your love, your sacrifice, and your courage, Columbia is proud to welcome you back to our campus and present you with the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.
Allen Hyman
Your outsized professional achievements in the fields of anesthesiology and critical neonatal care are matched in equal—which is to say quite extraordinary—measure by your devoted service to Columbia University; it therefore is with special pride and affection that we bestow upon you this honorary degree. Though meaningful advances in patient outcomes are often measured incrementally, your stewardship of Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center’s neonatal intensive care unit, as its founding director, was transformative, reversing a devastating inherited mortality rate among premature newborns suffering from respiratory distress syndrome. In ten years’ time, a 90 percent mortality rate became a 90 percent survival rate, thanks to your introduction of innovative ventilation treatment that revolutionized care for these infants. Later, there was a role for you in Columbia-Presbyterian’s senior administration. In typical fashion, your imprint was extensive; you were as comfortable helping to secure the hospital’s financial future as you were expanding health care in the local neighborhood. Like so many students and future scholars who made the mid-20th-century journey from Brooklyn to Morningside Heights, you flourished upon encountering the broad horizons of Columbia College in 1951. Though the signs of a future career in medicine were already evident, you spent your undergraduate years as a liberal arts student in the classic tradition, majoring in philosophy as well as chemistry. What better preparation for managing the existential questions raised by a career devoted to critical neonatal care than by confronting the mysteries of our humanity in history classes taught by James Shenton and Jacques Barzun, or learning poetry from Mark Van Doren, or theater from Archibald MacLeish? Always, your responsibilities as a professor of anesthesiology at Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons provided a source of special satisfaction. Your dedication to P&S was reflected not only in your generous decision to endow a professorship in your field and bearing your name, but also in your embrace of the decidedly unglamorous but essential policymaking that occurs in the University Senate. Pain is an unwelcome presence in every patient’s battle against sickness and disease. And while concerns about pain are never far from the consciousness of any physician, it is the anesthesiologist who is uniquely responsible for navigating with the patient the most harrowing passages of an often uncertain journey toward recovery, cure, and restored health. In this we think of you, Professor Hyman, as our Virgil, guiding Dante from darkness into light, for “you did as he who goes by night and carries the lamp behind him.” For not only illuminating a path for countless patients but also elevating the field of neonatal anesthesiology and vastly enriching this University and its Medical Center, we present to you with great pride and our utmost admiration the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa.
Eric Holder, Jr.
Over a history-making career of service to our nation and the cause of social justice, you have embodied Robert F. Kennedy’s admonition delivered in a speech to a University of Cape Town audience in 1966: “The enlargement of liberty for individual human beings must be [our] supreme goal and abiding practice.” This pursuit has, indeed, been your abiding practice, from your activist student days at Columbia, to your service as one of the nation’s most outstanding attorneys general, to your continuing efforts as a private citizen today. After a career in Washington battling corruption as a prosecutor in the public integrity section of the Justice Department, you served as a judge exposed directly to the injustice wreaked by mandatory sentencing laws and also as United States Attorney for the nation’s capital. The moral clarity with which you perceived systemic inequities was preamble to seven years as a different sort of United States Attorney General than the nation had ever seen: hate crimes prosecuted with as much vigor as high-profile terrorism cases; a tough-minded effort to reform our criminal justice system by overhauling sentencing policies and investigating corrupt police departments; and a Justice Department bully pulpit used to rebuff the recurrence of the civic cancer posed by discriminatory voting restrictions. Against forceful opposition, you were a national leader on voting rights, declaring that “no force has proved more powerful—or more integral to the success of the great American experiment—than efforts to expand the franchise.” You also declared the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and had government lawyers stand down from defending it, helping to pave the way for the landmark Supreme Court decisions that would come, guaranteeing same-sex couples the right to marry. We looked on with great attentiveness and no small amount of pride, as you, an alumnus of Columbia College and the Law School by way of the Bronx and Queens, shouldered with enormous grace the responsibility of the high office you were named to by a fellow Columbian. Unfailingly, you made decisions informed by a manifest awareness of the history of the department you led and of the nation, as well as the sacrifices of earlier generations of brave Americans who contributed to aligning the nation more closely with its highest ideals. You are a public servant of rare principle and uncommon integrity. For your courage, your grit, your wit, and your selfless choice to labor at the center of the public arena where you battled to protect the liberty and security of every American citizen, Columbia is proud to present you with the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.
Jacques Pépin
For democratizing the art of great cooking and revolutionizing the modern American kitchen, you stand as one of our few, genuine culinary icons. Yet long before you were a trailblazing master chef, you were a child of World War II France. On a farm in Foissiat, a somber six-year-old boy, who had been separated from his family, milked a cow for the first time. When he tasted the sweet, frothy fruits of his labor, his spirits lifted and he gained access to an insight that would change his life forever: food is more than sustenance; it offers a path to a life well lived. You began learning then that food holds the power to fascinate and confound us, at once one of life’s basic necessities and among its greatest extravagances. Cooking would become your passion, your vocation, your livelihood, and your art. You began working as a child in your parents’ restaurant under the watchful eye of your mother, a canny businesswoman who introduced you to the discipline and the delight of life in the kitchen. You went on to apprentice in famed Parisian restaurants, distinguishing yourself as an instinctive and tireless cook with an inquisitive mind and a talent for swiftly absorbing new skills. You eventually became personal chef to three heads of state, including President Charles de Gaulle. Your wanderlust brought you to New York City and, initially, to the historic restaurant Le Pavillon. A year before your fortieth birthday, a car accident left you unable to shoulder the physical demands of working in a restaurant and required that you embark on a new direction, a testament to your resilience and your commitment. Very quickly you became a transformative teacher dedicated to providing every home cook with the tools to experience the life-affirming joy of a simple meal well prepared. Twenty-eight cookbooks and 13 public television series brought your singular approach to the craft of gastronomy into homes across the country, joining the ranks of pioneering figures like Julia Child and Pierre Franey who made the French culinary arts accessible to American audiences. These accomplishments become all the more impressive when considered alongside your long-standing intellectual curiosity and your academic achievements. Speaking little English, you arrived at Columbia University and the School of General Studies almost six decades ago, displaying an admirable thirst for education. Your subsequent transformation into a scholar of Molière and Voltaire who acquired a B.A. and an M.A. in French literature was nothing short of extraordinary. The great 16th-century French philosopher Michel de Montaigne wrote, “There is . . . no knowledge so hard to acquire as the knowledge of how to live this life well.” You discovered early on that purpose and fulfillment were to be found in hard work, intellectual curiosity, and the enjoyment of a great meal with great friends. For your industry, your generosity, and your example of what it means to live life well, Columbia is proud to present you with the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.
João Gilberto
Countless are those whose lives have been changed by your music over the past half century, and countless more will thrill and delight to your songs in decades to come. In a world of news cycles collapsed to mere minutes and the latest cultural phenomena forgotten as quickly as they arise, your artistry is of a different order: at once popular and avant-garde, of the moment and ageless, Brazilian and global, and, indisputably, of a rare quality that will stand the test of time. Listeners all around the world rejoice at the opening chn-chn-chn of “Doralice” and your ethereal singing in “Vivo Sonhando (Dreamer).” You are Brazil’s beloved global ambassador of musical culture. After moving from Bahia to Rio de Janeiro as a teenager, you succeeded in conjuring up a new sound able to communicate Brazil’s special flair like no other, a sound improbably invented in friends’ tiled bathrooms serving as acoustic laboratories. Soon, young musicians around Brazil were swapping your recordings and imitating your beats. Your first album, Chega de Saudade, would reach the radio stations of the United States and popularize this bossa nova, or new style. In 1964, we heard for the first time “The Girl from Ipanema,” a shimmering postcard describing a fresh vision of your home country for the world. The following year, Getz/Gilberto became the first jazz record to win the Grammy Award for Best Album of the Year. And decades later, you would be recognized with a Grammy Hall of Fame Award for making music of exceptional quality and historical significance. You introduced to the world the rhythms of contemporary Brazilian jazz, inspiring not only musicians and musicologists but legions of admirers of Brazilian culture, including many here at Columbia. We celebrate through your achievements the rich ties of Columbia University to Brazil, dating back at least to 1906 and the University’s award of a different honorary degree to your countryman Joaquim Nabuco, the abolitionist and diplomat who established Brazil’s first embassy in America. Today, that enduring relationship is being energized and reinvented by the Columbia Global Center in Rio de Janeiro. For creating bossa nova, or your melodic voice able to convey quiet optimism and a love of life, for songs as deeply evocative as they are instantly recognizable, and for uniting people the world over through your music, we are proud to present you with the degree of Doctor of Music, honoris causa.
Martin Duberman
You are a rare and true scholar of reform. The interplay of rigorous analysis and courageous activism defining your clarion career calls to mind Emma Goldman’s observation that “revolution is but thought carried into action.” Indeed, few contemporary scholars have better understood the role of the intellectual in forging social progress. Your body of work—prodigious and befitting a scholar coming onto the scene at a young age and with precocious talents—is testimony to the power of fusing together these identities: Your political plays exploring the devastating personal impact of repression, among them In White America, winner of the Vernon Rice/Drama Desk Award, and Visions of Kerouac. Your candid nonfiction demanding that society reckon with the harsh cost of insisting that gays, lesbians, and other minorities operate neatly within establishment boundaries if they are to access power. And your breakthrough biographies of brilliant outsiders James Russell Lowell, Howard Zinn, Paul Robeson, and Lincoln Kirstein, each of them a complex individual resisting classification, yet all of them possessing, as you do, a restless creativity and strong convictions. In your experience, action always followed insight, because for you there was no alternative. From a major role in the Gay Academic Union, the first group dedicated to establishing gay and lesbian studies as an academic genre, to serving as founding director of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, your outspoken advocacy was a beacon of dignity and courage when too many queer academics rightfully feared being open about their sexuality. And while the movement you helped create came to achieve unthinkable levels of social acceptance in the decades following the Stonewall riots, such that it now often moves forward with moderation supplanting radicalism, you have never abandoned the principles driving you to dismantle systemic oppression and discrimination. You paid a price for coming of age when science and society viewed deviations from sexual norms as an illness, experiencing a distinctly suffocating form of oppression policed by sentinels both internal and external. Your forthright memoirs—Midlife Queer: Autobiography of a Decade and, more recently, Waiting to Land: A (Mostly) Political Memoir, 1985–2008—reveal your strong belief that self-acceptance, wherever it may lead, is essential to individual fulfillment. By sharing your struggle to embrace your own identity, you provided a courageous and inspiring example others could follow. For occupying the front ranks of society’s inexorable march toward equality and freedom without ever straying from the path, and for doing so with the high intellectual rigor and eloquence needed to light the way, Columbia takes great pride in presenting you with the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa.
Julia Bacha
How does a Brazilian-born woman who attended Columbia University in the City of New York find her calling in the Middle East? How does a student who set out to study English and was interested in journalism become a groundbreaking documentary filmmaker? The answers to those mysteries lie in the personal motivation and creative spirit that brought you to where you are today. The writer Tim O’Brien has asserted, “Storytelling is the essential human activity; the harder the situation, the more essential it is.” Perhaps in those words we glimpse some of the impetus behind your compelling work and the attraction of the particular stories you have chosen to tell. The appeal of a liberal arts education led you to Columbia and the School of General Studies, and from that new vantage point you discovered an affinity with Middle Eastern history that would change the course of your life. Cairo was where your journey led next, to work on Control Room, a documentary film providing an incisive look at media bias and press freedoms through the lens of Al Jazeera’s coverage of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. That experience demonstrated to you the power of film to reach audiences around the world and convinced you to devote yourself to the craft. You gravitate toward the suffering of people who have been ignored and alarming events that have been overlooked. Your documentaries on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict upended the received narrative of that struggle by bringing us in contact with individuals who chose the path of nonviolence to affect change. Encounter Point examines families in the region who have decided to seek peace across religious, political, and cultural divides after surmounting the grief and anger caused by violence and loss. Budrus tells the story of a Palestinian village that saved itself from destruction through nonviolent resistance. My Neighbourhood follows a Palestinian teenager in East Jerusalem who was joined by Israeli supporters in peaceful protest to resist Israeli seizure of his home. There has been no shortage of acclaim for these films. From the more than thirty film festival awards to the Guggenheim Fellowship you earned in 2015 for a project exploring the experience of female leaders of the First Intifada, recognition for your unconventional and penetrating films has been widespread. Indeed, your work has been exhibited at the Sundance, Berlin, and Tribeca Film Festivals, broadcast on television networks around the world, and screened for Palestinian refugees living in camps and members of the United States Congress alike. Your documentaries shed light on the world’s most intractable conflicts by exploring the boundaries of what the human spirit can achieve in the face of despair and division. For the remarkable stories at once life-affirming and unsentimental that you already have given us, and for all that we know you will create in the future, we are filled with great pride and the utmost admiration in presenting you with the University Medal for Excellence.
Padma Desai
What are the qualities that make it possible for a scholarly life to leave an indelible mark on our store of knowledge and on society’s welfare? In this era, they certainly include an enthusiasm for working across traditional academic disciplines; a belief in the responsibility of world-class scholarship to helpfully address the world’s problems; and an understanding that true academic excellence requires engagement with different cultures, ideologies, political settings, and people. Or, one could simply say: the qualities personified by Professor Padma Desai. Your seminal research on emerging markets and comparative economic systems, applied masterfully to Russia’s transition from communism, offers insights that will loom ever larger as such research becomes more difficult to pursue in an increasingly homogenous global economy. A consistent hallmark of your work is an eye for the detail able to reveal the shortcomings of a promising theory’s practical application and your determination to dig more deeply into those difficult questions. Your disciplined academic approach and passion for the intricacies of economic policymaking, combined with a persistent focus on real-world effects, made you a partner sought after by the world’s most respected policy institutions, from the Brookings Institution and the National Science Foundation to the United Nations and the Ford Foundation. Out of your painstaking examination of arcane subjects such as weather patterns and grain yields in the Soviet Union emerged a proposed economic plan for the postcommunist Soviet state. Your early work would also play a guiding role in India’s journey toward a more market-based economy. More recently you provided a sweeping and authoritative analysis of the 2008 global financial crisis. In every instance, your intellectual inquiry was elevated by a keen appreciation for the full range of incentives driving the decision makers responsible for stewarding national economies. We thank you, as well, for applying your eloquence and wisdom to your own remarkable past in Breaking Out: An Indian Woman’s American Journey, and From England with Love: An Indian Student Writes from Cambridge, a moving homage to your trailblazing father and the legacy you carry on. The generosity of spirit you have shown in creating these two beautifully rendered and deeply revealing memoirs is a gift greatly appreciated by so many here at Columbia and around the world. A beloved colleague among the Columbia faculty and director of the Center for Transition Economies, you exhibited an unwavering commitment to Columbia students by teaching the College’s introductory economics seminar, making certain that you came in contact with the largest possible number of our undergraduate students. Fyodor Dostoyevsky explained that humanity is a mystery: “If you spend your entire life trying to puzzle it out, then do not say that you have wasted your time.” For serving us in the noble pursuit of puzzling life’s mysteries, as a legendary economist, global policymaker, Columbia scholar and teacher, and eloquent author, we award you, with utmost admiration and respect, the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa. Julia Bacha University Medal for Excellence May 17, 2017 How does a Brazilian-born woman who attended Columbia University in the City of New York find her calling in the Middle East? How does a student who set out to study English and was interested in journalism become a groundbreaking documentary filmmaker? The answers to those mysteries lie in the personal motivation and creative spirit that brought you to where you are today. The writer Tim O’Brien has asserted, “Storytelling is the essential human activity; the harder the situation, the more essential it is.” Perhaps in those words we glimpse some of the impetus behind your compelling work and the attraction of the particular stories you have chosen to tell. The appeal of a liberal arts education led you to Columbia and the School of General Studies, and from that new vantage point you discovered an affinity with Middle Eastern history that would change the course of your life. Cairo was where your journey led next, to work on Control Room, a documentary film providing an incisive look at media bias and press freedoms through the lens of Al Jazeera’s coverage of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. That experience demonstrated to you the power of film to reach audiences around the world and convinced you to devote yourself to the craft. You gravitate toward the suffering of people who have been ignored and alarming events that have been overlooked. Your documentaries on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict upended the received narrative of that struggle by bringing us in contact with individuals who chose the path of nonviolence to affect change. Encounter Point examines families in the region who have decided to seek peace across religious, political, and cultural divides after surmounting the grief and anger caused by violence and loss. Budrus tells the story of a Palestinian village that saved itself from destruction through nonviolent resistance. My Neighbourhood follows a Palestinian teenager in East Jerusalem who was joined by Israeli supporters in peaceful protest to resist Israeli seizure of his home. There has been no shortage of acclaim for these films. From the more than thirty film festival awards to the Guggenheim Fellowship you earned in 2015 for a project exploring the experience of female leaders of the First Intifada, recognition for your unconventional and penetrating films has been widespread. Indeed, your work has been exhibited at the Sundance, Berlin, and Tribeca Film Festivals, broadcast on television networks around the world, and screened for Palestinian refugees living in camps and members of the United States Congress alike. Your documentaries shed light on the world’s most intractable conflicts by exploring the boundaries of what the human spirit can achieve in the face of despair and division. For the remarkable stories at once life-affirming and unsentimental that you already have given us, and for all that we know you will create in the future, we are filled with great pride and the utmost admiration in presenting you with the University Medal for Excellence.

2016

Arthur Mitchell
That you rose to become one of the most celebrated figures in American ballet is a remarkable feat. That you did so within an artistic culture that at the time was marred by racial stereotyping and embedded prejudice defies expectations. For while talent and determination can produce a great artist, it takes still more to become a transformative figure. You have been just such a figure in the world of dance and beyond. Born in 1930s Harlem and faced with the need to begin supporting your family at age 12, your irrepressible talent would demand its place in your life. You danced with the School of American Ballet and later the New York City Ballet, where you performed an iconic and barrier-shattering interracial pas de deux with Diana Adams in Agon. These formative years contained both the pain inflicted by unvarnished racial prejudice and crushing insults and the great gift of learning from the masters George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein. Your fortitude and your faith in the power of art have meant so much, to so many. The groundbreaking performances you gave were full of personal courage and artistic innovation and succeeded in exploding the myth that African American bodies were unsuitable for classical dance. And your determination to co-found the Dance Theatre of Harlem in the wake of the loss of Martin Luther King Jr. stood then and stands today as an eloquent call to fulfill the slain leader's dream. In the new artistic space you created, the color of a child's skin would neither limit her horizons nor provoke the type of indignities you had suffered. Through your vision, work ethic, and the example provided by your art, you ultimately triumphed in throwing over rigid custom. Dance Theatre of Harlem proved that the classical art of ballet, created in the palaces of Renaissance Europe, would thrive amidst the grace and flair of Upper Manhattan. Columbia takes great pride in being home to your archives, which tell the story of a life's work inseparable from the culture and history of Harlem. By altering the face of dance, you have shown us the special power of the artistic endeavor: a sometimes subtle, sometimes blunt tool for pushing past boundaries and preconceived ideas of people and life. For your artistic genius and your remarkable resolve to overcome barriers, Columbia is proud to present you with the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.
Susan Meiselas
The writer Samuel Johnson contended that "curiosity is, in great and generous minds, the first passion and the last." It is a sentiment perfectly capturing the twists, the turns, the audacity, and the genius that have given shape and meaning to your inimitable career as a photographer. For more than forty years, you have placed your trust in serendipity and personal freedom, following your artistic impulse to encounters with esoteric subjects, remote places, unexamined human experience, and events shaping the course of history. Committed to understanding and explaining the world on your own terms, you discovered a distinctive place for meeting the subjects of your photography, allowing you to produce unforgettable images that contextualize and humanize. These pictures gain their stunning power not simply by telling the stories of those rarely heard, but by doing so honestly and respectfully. They are photographs that faithfully encompass a reality beyond the frame and allow your subjects to speak for themselves, free from judgment and misinterpretation. You have always acknowledged the good fortune of being raised by parents who encouraged your imagination and your independence. Inspired by your graduate studies at Harvard, you chose the camera as your tool for exploring the world and embarked on an unconventional path that led you to New England’s traveling carnivals, encounters with strippers whom you ad mired for their strength and grit, and Nicaragua a t the dawn of the Sandinista Revolution, where you succeeded in showing the world the mix of hope and violence in that war-torn nation. For your accomplishments, you were awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. You continued to be drawn to subterranean injustices, which you sought to document and, through the testimony of your camera, combat. To Kurdistan you went, where you created a visual history of a resilient people still grappling with the trauma of attempted genocide. It is the rare artist who chooses subjects based on personal fascination and then infuses their portrayal with a profound humanity. Always your work is driven by a searching intellect and larger purpose. For your open mind, generous spirit, and a life lived in celebration of the value of curiosity, Columbia is proud to present you with the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.
Tracy K Smith
Natasha Trethewey, a treasured Poet Laureate of the United States and recent Columbia honorary degree recipient, describes poetry as a "sacred language that allows us to connect across time and space, across all the things in everyday life that separate us and would destroy us." You, Tracy K. Smith, have learned this sacred language and now speak it in your own distinctive voice. Over and over, you demonstrate the gift of being able to connect the intimacy of love and acceptance, yearning and absence, with the infinity of our fragile human lives. Each of your three collections is a standout: The Body's Question, your 2003 debut and winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize; Duende, which four years later earned the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets; and then Life on Mars, the 2012 Pulitzer Prize-winning volume described in another citation from this University as a "collection of bold, skillful poems, taking readers into the universe and moving them to an authentic mix of joy and pain." In your most recent work, Ordinary Light, you reveal the ability to extend this lyrical power beyond verse to produce a penetrating memoir of family and adolescence. Your special talent germinated in youthful experimentation aided by an early vintage Mac computer, which served as the vehicle for your word play, elaborate enjambments, and fledgling attempts at distilling the experience of a moment. You would hone your skill at the Dark Room Collective, a groundbreaking workshop you joined while an undergraduate at Harvard. Here at Columbia, you pushed yourself further, earning a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and gaining experience and wisdom from a different creative community enthralled by poetry's special alchemy. It is no wonder that words you heard years later in a simple song sung at your daughter's preschool—“when we tell our stories, we make power”—carry a special resonance for you. Now your students at Princeton have the great fortune to have you as their guide in telling their stories and finding their power. Your leadership of that university's creative writing program is driven by a commitment to the type of embracing community you found in Cambridge and then New York. Colleagues on the Princeton faculty join with your students in expressing their admiration for your insight, empathy, and enthusiasm—the very same qualities that have garnered praise for your work from the Academy of American Poets, The Rona Jaffe Foundation, the Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation, and the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. For speaking the sacred language of poetry so beautifully, so powerfully, and so truthfully, we are enormously proud to welcome you back to Columbia and to present you with the University Medal for Excellence.
Ban Ki-Moon
Since its founding more than 70 years ago, the United Nations has had as a central purpose, "to achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character." Yet only during your near-decade at the helm of the United Nations has the opportunity signaled by this goal become fully visible and the need to embrace it become so urgent. You have faced a formidable task and shouldered the burden admirably. Climate change, infectious disease, poverty, terrorism, refugee migration, violence against women, and financial instability. It is a roll call of 21st-century problems resistant to remedies engineered by any single nation, yet occurring at a moment when the prospect of reliable global cooperation, though closer at hand than ever before, often remains out of reach. Never have the words uttered by Trygve Lie, the UN's first Secretary-General, upon his passing of the torch to his successor, Dag Hammarskjöld, been more apt: "You are about to take over the most impossible job on earth." Perhaps your foremost asset in meeting this challenge is a personal history that exposed you, at a young age, first to the horror of modern warfare and then to the triumph of national rebirth supported by the international community. The travails of your childhood in Japanese-occupied Korea were surely on your mind as you stood among a group of young international Red Cross delegates on the White House lawn and heard President Kennedy say that collectively you personified the "hopes we can have for the future." It was a pivotal moment for an 18-year-old, setting you on course to become a diplomat, policy advisor, foreign minister, and, ultimately, only the eighth person to serve as Secretary-General of the United Nations. In this role, you have been determined to see progress on intractable, long-term challenges while remaining attuned to the exigencies and opportunities of the everyday. Responding to past United Nations' efforts to promote gender equality that were undermined by inadequate funding and the absence of a clear mission, you established UN Women, a new entity with the resources and governing mandate to bring an end to the pervasive gender violence and discrimination so shocking to the conscience of society. And just last month, at United Nations Headquarters, you presided over a ceremony that saw 175 world leaders sign the Paris Agreement for global action on climate change – the largest number of nations ever to sign an international accord on a single day. For a lifetime of selfless public service firmly grounded in President Kennedy's exhortation that "we are one human family and this one planet is our home," we are proud to present you with the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.
Robert Darnton
Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison once explained that "access to knowledge is the superb, the supreme act of truly great civilizations." In this modern era of academic specialization, the role of broad-minded thinkers committed to the pursuit of new knowledge for its most elemental value has become all the more rare and all the more necessary. And you have been among our greatest champions in this cause. Though you attended Andover on a scholarship, graduated from Harvard magna cum laude, and were awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford where you studied for your Ph.D., the full flower of your academic career would have to wait until you first completed a stint as a crime reporter, attracted to journalism in part by your father Byron's career as a celebrated war correspondent for The New York Times. When, in your spare time in the reporters' bullpen at police headquarters, you found yourself more interested in reading Burckhardt's Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy than the day's police blotter, it was time to return for good to higher education. History was your true calling, and you found your home at Princeton University, where you were a member of the faculty for almost forty years and became the foremost historian of learning's main repository: the book. Your leadership in this field has spanned the dawn of the Internet age and come at a portentous moment for teaching and learning. The post of University Librarian at Harvard, home to the largest private library system in the world, has always carried special responsibilities. But only during your tenure did it involve, for example, issuing a warning about the dangers of commercializing information in response to Google's proposal to own the world's books. Your efforts to navigate the impact of the digital age on both the existing storehouse of knowledge and new research findings led to the creation of the Digital Public Library of America, accessible to people in almost every country on earth. You also championed Harvard’s creation of an open access digital repository for peer-reviewed literature, helping to revolutionize the way academics share their work. Who would expect that this devotee of the digital frontier was once a young scholar who took such pleasure in traveling to Switzerland and France for the opportunity to physically sift through rich source material –thousands upon thousands of documents describing the lives and times of established printers and publishers, as well as the shadier world of smugglers, rebels, and profligates who traded in the written word. No one has understood the unique learning made possible by the book more entirely, defended it more fiercely, or accomplished more to secure its future, than you. For preserving access to the knowledge on which civilization depends, Columbia is proud to present you with the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa.
Robert Owen Paxton
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, in his Nobel Lecture, asserted that "one word of truth shall outweigh the whole world," a claim aptly characterizing your potent scholarship. Modern society, with its plethora of wrenching conflict, frequently calls on the historian to reconcile us with our past. Yet few examples more starkly reveal the power of exacting scholarship to shift the understanding of individuals, and indeed entire nations, than does your reevaluation of the German occupation of France during World War II. As a young man, your devotion to comprehending and explaining the past in all its harrowing complexity helped you develop unerring vision, and led you to Germany and an extended journey through archives describing the recent past. There you confronted the distressing truth that Marshal Henri Philippe Petain's Vichy government was not a passive tool of Nazi rule but a collaborationist regime complicit in discrimination against, and the deportation and murder of, tens of thousands of Jews. Fierce, if predictable, opposition across French society threatened to impede a fair reading of your findings and their ultimate acceptance. You persisted, confident that pursuit of an essential truth about who we are would eventually prevail over political calculation and national pride. In time, your analysis became accepted fact, certified by President Jacques Chirac's admission of French complicity with the Third Reich in a landmark speech in 1995. You pressed forward with the controversial decision to testify at the trials of former Vichy officials. In doing so, you challenged accepted notions of the relationship between historian and history to supply context and nuance to France's effort to reckon with its past. For these efforts, you have been called part of the conscience of France, a distinction accompanied by prestigious awards, including the Légion d’honneur, the Ordre national du Mérite, and the rank of commandeur of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. Columbia has been honored to be your intellectual and professional home since 1969. Admired by colleagues for being a scholar of quiet yet powerful conviction, you inspired the careers of generations of students who saw in you an example of the transformative potential of the historian's craft. Your principled scholarship conducted over more than five decades shattered long-standing myths about French collaboration, recast our understanding of this seminal period in history, and elevated you to the stature of a historical figure in your own right. For marshalling your talent, your determination, and your moral compass to reveal a hidden truth that certainly did remake the world, Columbia is proud to present you with the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa.
Zhu Chen
Your special talent for curing disease, alleviating suffering, and transforming lives should not be allowed to obscure a different and essential feature of your remarkable life: an unusual ability to defy the odds in service of humanitarian goals. When the dictates of the Cultural Revolution prevented the completion of your medical studies, you embraced the work of a barefoot doctor, spending five years in the countryside caring for farmers and gaining new inspiration in the process. Given the opportunity to train at Shanghai Second Medical University, you demonstrated exceptional talent as a young hematologist and then found your way to Paris and the pursuit of a doctorate at Hôpital Saint-Louis at Université Paris Diderot. The barefoot doctor was on a path that would lead him to become China's Minister of Health from 2007 to 2013, overseeing the largest health system in the world, which since 1949 has witnessed the average life expectancy of the Chinese people rise from 35 to 75 years, an astonishing advance due in large part to the tireless work of women and men like you. During your time in France, you immersed yourself in a new field, molecular biology, and then carried that learning home with you where you focused your attention on the treatment of acute promyelocytic leukemia, a particularly lethal cancer without a known cure. Through an imaginative blending of Chinese and Western medical traditions, you were able to pioneer a new combination therapy that would save countless lives. Indeed, a cancer that once often resulted in death within a month of diagnosis now has remission rates of 90 percent, an outcome made possible by your creativity and determination. Your contributions have been widely recognized, including by La Ligue Nationale Contre le Cancer, which for the first time bestowed its highest award, the Prix de I'Oise, upon a non-French recipient. It gives us great pleasure, in adding to your honors with this degree, to be reminded of beloved Columbia alumnus and cardiologist, the late Clyde Wu, whose dedication to furthering innovative clinical research knew no bounds and whose fellowship you once held here. According to Hippocrates, "Wherever the art of Medicine is loved, there is also a love of Humanity." You have embodied this precept through a combination of brilliant scholarship, groundbreaking research, public leadership, and, most of all, an unwavering personal dedication to serving humanity. Columbia is therefore proud to present you with the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa.
Amanda M Burden
It is fitting that we honor you at a moment when so many in New York City and beyond have turned their attention to the viral role of urban planning in modern society on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of Jane Jacobs's birth. Jacobs appreciated the art no less than the science of the calling you share, describing the cityscape as "an intricate ballet in which the individual dancers and ensembles all have distinctive parts which miraculously reinforce each other." Given the opportunity by Mayor Bloomberg to choreograph Gotham's ballet to a 21st-century score, you grabbed hold of the responsibility with both hands, leaving a mark on the city that has already become and will forever remain a part of its narrative. The chapter bearing your name tells of a modern renaissance. On the Brooklyn waterfront, the abandoned rubble of forgotten industrial piers became a sleek public park where families now sprawl on clipped grass, one of many welcome greenspaces of all shapes and sizes that have proliferated across the five boroughs. On a once­derelict railway line on the West Side of Manhattan, children dance amidst landscaped bushes and flowers as music plays. Across the city, newcomers nest in rezoned developments with plazas, pocket parks, and ready access to public transit. The city stretched to use neglected but invaluable parts of its urban domain, becoming more sustainable even as it expanded, and through this ambitious balancing act and your enthusiasm for innovation, you provided leadership to colleagues in cities around the world. The planning effort you led as the New York City Planning Commissioner was the largest in sixty years, rejuvenating thousands of blocks across 124 different New York City neighborhoods. Your rigorous attention to detail, from the placement of benches to concern about unintended consequences affecting shopkeepers, became a source of authority and respect in the contentious world of New York development. Your training at Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, in combination with the opportunity to learn from William H. Whyte and other masters of the craft, made you ideally suited for this role. Columbia University in the City of New York has for more than 260 years understood that our fate is inextricably bound to the fortunes of this metropolis, the greatest the world has ever seen. We have, over that time, proudly contributed a mix of new knowledge and public service to help our home city prosper. It is therefore a special privilege through this honorary degree to recognize you as a worthy addition to the roll call of Columbians who planned New York's street grid, subway system, and much more. With pride, we welcome you back to Columbia and honor you with a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

2015

Bill Campbell
If a great, diverse research university could have a single beating heart, Columbia’s would most assuredly be you. From the time you arrived on Morningside Heights from Western Pennsylvania nearly six decades ago, through your venerated term as chairman of our Board of Trustees, your dynamism, humor, and can-do spirit have energized everyone and everything around you. A graduate of the College and then Teachers College who, as an undersized offensive guard, captained Columbia’s storied 1961 Ivy League Champion football team, you returned to campus as head football coach more than a decade later during a period of institutional and financial challenge for the University. A proud Army veteran and a winner to your core, you were dissatisfied with your own performance and, despite the enduring admiration of the players whose lives you shaped, you chose to leave the sidelines to pursue a different path. After starting a new career as a vice president at J. Walter Thompson in New York and general manager of consumer products for Kodak Europe, you joined Apple in 1983. In addition to serving as executive vice president of Apple, Inc., and as a member of its board of directors for 17 years, you were also president and chief executive of GO Corporation, and founder, president, and chief executive of Claris Corporation. You went on to be president and chief executive of Intuit from 1994 to 2000 and have been chairman of the board of directors since 1998. Not captured by any organizational title or resume entry, you have been an admired leader and a trusted mentor to a generation of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and executives who have transformed our economy and society. As chairman of Columbia’s Board of Trustees for nine years, you helped support the University through a watershed period in its long history. Your service to and support for Columbia have been invaluable. A founder of the Columbia Alumni Association and a member of the advisory group of the Columbia Entrepreneurship Initiative, you have won virtually every prize Columbia can bestow on its alumni, including the Alexander Hamilton Medal, the John Jay Award, and the Alumni Athletics Award. In 2010, you and fellow members of the 1961 Ivy League Champion football team were inducted into the Columbia University Athletics Hall of Fame. You have been a director of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame, which each year in your honor awards the William V. Campbell Trophy recognizing a student-athlete as “the absolute best in the country for his academic success, football performance and exemplary community leadership.” How apt, then, that an acclaimed and innovative work of architecture for Columbia Athletics will forever bear your name. For both your lion’s roar that can wake the echoes of the Hudson Valley and your softer voice that has had such an extraordinary impact on our University, our economy, and the many people for whom you will forever be “Coach,” Columbia is proud to confer on you the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.
Andrea Elliott
Photojournalist Dorothea Lange said that “while there is perhaps a province in which [art] can tell us nothing more than what we see with our own eyes, there is another in which it proves to us how little our eyes permit us to see.” In your still young career, you have elevated narrative journalism to an art form, telling the stories of people among us who live out of sight, until you place them with great compassion and generosity at the center of public conversation. An imam in Brooklyn. A homeless New York City girl. Combat veterans. After we meet them through your reporting, we grow all too aware of how little we previously have seen. These are unusually resonant acts of journalism that produce a large and lasting impact. Your passion for chronicling human experience has been a constant presence throughout your life. Studying literature at Occidental College, joining the student newspaper there, and then turning to documentary filmmaking, your boundless interest in penetrating life’s mysteries served you—and now society at large—very well. It comes as no surprise that you finished first in your class at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, an honor reflecting the perfect affinity you felt with your notebook and pen as you travelled about New York City as a student journalist, exploring and explaining your adopted home. While the subjects of your investigative reports for The New York Times range far afield, your point of view is consistent and ennobling. Your mission always has been to seek greater understanding rather than to memorialize a fleeting glimpse of violence or apparent failure. The finely etched portrait you drew of Sheik Reda Shata, a Brooklyn imam born in Egypt, goes beyond describing a leader struggling with the post–September 11 crosscurrents of American society to recount on the pages of a daily newspaper a timeless tale of tradition versus modernity. We proudly note the wisdom of the Pulitzer Board and Columbia University in honoring these articles with their coveted prize. Your series, “Invisible Child,” winner of the George Polk Award, manages to equal and perhaps exceed this lofty standard. In describing the daily travails of a homeless girl and her family, the articles demanded that our great city and the entire nation look squarely at lives lived in poverty during this era of great affluence. The reporting you have produced, so powerful for its empathy and grace, reminds us that journalism is strongest when it embraces humanity’s most humbling yet essential challenge: to better understand one another. For opening our eyes and permitting us to see, Columbia is proud to welcome you back to campus to receive the University Medal for Excellence.
Anthony S Fauci
The noble profession of medicine calls some to serve as attending physicians, others to search for cures for disease, a smaller number to administer the complex, modern-day institutional apparatus so essential to public health, and only a rare few to communicate effectively to the general public what is at stake in all of these efforts. The notion that a single individual could embody the highest standard of excellence in each discrete capacity simply strains credulity. Yet that is precisely what you have accomplished in your unparalleled career. What accounts for this all-encompassing embrace of the art and science of healing? Perhaps the answer lies in those long-ago, boyhood bicycle tours of your hometown Brooklyn that found you delivering prescriptions for your father, a Columbia-trained pharmacist known as “Doc.” There may never have been a childhood chore that more powerfully communicated Hippocrates’s creed: “Wherever the art of medicine is loved, there is also a love of humanity.” In the earliest, frightening days of our nation’s battle with the human immunodeficiency virus, you were at the forefront, working with both urgency and brilliance to meet a heartbreaking public health challenge that was, at the time, beyond the reach of the medical establishment. Driven by the suffering you encountered in our communities of gay men, you pioneered the field of human immunoregulation, conducting research that explained the mechanisms by which HIV disables the body’s defenses. These many years later, we are on the cusp of a generation free of infection, a signal public health accomplishment for which you rightly deserve great credit. In 1984, you became director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and remain in that post today, a remarkable tenure that has defined the office. Several American presidents, starting with George H. W. Bush, sought to elevate you to director of the National Institutes of Health; you respectfully declined, choosing instead to remain where you could have the largest effect on treating and curing disease rather than opting for a new title. The revealing professional choice speaks volumes about your personal values that colleagues, patients, and the general public have long admired. From this platform, you have cared for individual patients and the American public in every manner possible, including managing responses to influenza, tuberculosis, malaria, and Ebola. You lead through example and action, making time virtually every day to visit patients, including those posing a health risk to their caregivers. You also have become one of our nation’s most trusted and widely recognized health educators, explaining to the public in accessible language medical threats and appropriate safeguards. For providing an unsurpassed example of the immense service that can be provided when dedication to public health, scientific mastery, and a deep love of humanity are embodied in a single individual, Columbia is proud to present you with the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa.
David Levering Lewis
To say that the quality of your historical scholarship is exceptional is doubly true, for it is both of the highest standard and different in kind, evincing an uncommon belief in the possibility of humanity’s betterment through experience and learning. For those who have imbibed the incisive yet gloomy wisdom of Aldous Huxley, who asserted, “that men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach,” your body of work suggests a brighter horizon. How could it have been different for someone whose career appears to have been magically foretold by a childhood encounter with W. E. B. Du Bois? When the imposing man asked you, at age 12, about your plans for the future, little could he have known that you would dedicate 15 years of your academic life to producing his definitive biography, a two-volume examination of Du Bois’s searching and quintessentially American mind, with each of the books winning a Pulitzer Prize and numerous other accolades. For you, the study of history is a profoundly humanist endeavor. Born to parents who devoted their lives to education, you became a scholar of rare skill and rigor who was drawn to subjects that still resonate loudly today. From the towering figures of the civil rights movement of the 20th century, to the forces that drove the rise of Islam in the medieval period, to your analysis of the Dreyfus Affair, to your examination of the Harlem Renaissance, you have chosen to explore transformational people and events. Your mission has been to unearth insights about the complexities of the politics, ethnic imperatives, religions, and cultures that define the human experience and continue to guide the fates of peoples and empires. Columbia takes pride in its modest role setting your career in motion through the encouragement you received from our own Jacques Barzun when, as a young man, you sought his advice and expressed your interest in the study of history. Your professional choice has proved a wise one, many times over, resulting not only in rich and varied scholarship, but also in fellowships in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, a grant from the MacArthur Foundation, and, in 2010, the presentation of the National Humanities Medal by President Obama at the White House. For bringing vividly to life the lessons of history, presenting them in all their fullness, and conveying the powerful resonance of the past to the events of our time, Columbia is proud to present you with the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa.
Albert Louis Sachs
Always you have been consumed with fighting injustice. The fight has known no bounds: a high calling that, over the course of your lifetime, has been as much your personal identity as your birthplace or name. You began, in earnest, as a newly minted 21-year-old lawyer at the Cape Bar, defending non-whites and political dissidents, many who faced the death penalty for resisting apartheid, thereby ensuring that you, also, would become a target of the apartheid state. This courageous choice would be costly and have repercussions lasting decades. Perhaps, though, there was never a different path for you: your father, Solly, a renowned South African labor leader, and your mother, Ray, an assistant to one of the heads of the African National Congress, were freedom fighters in their own right. You have employed every available tool to advance the cause of justice, from authoring seminal books, including Justice in South Africa, Sexism and the Law, and The Soft Vengeance of a Freedom Fighter; to serving as a public figure in exile representing the hopes and dreams of a new South Africa still yet to be created; to a leading role in the constitution-making essential to your nation’s rebirth; and ultimately to your appointment by President Nelson Mandela to South Africa’s new Constitutional Court, a body you helped to establish as one of the world’s most admired high courts. Also boundless have been your sacrifices: solitary confinement, interrogation at the hands of ruthless jailers, your father’s exile from South Africa as well as your own extended banishment from your native country, and the permanent physical scars of a vicious, state-sponsored assassination attempt. In your lifetime, you have known them all and succumbed to none. The source of this remarkable fortitude is plain to all who know you, found in your indomitable spirit and your understanding of something profound about the human condition. In National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality v Minister of Justice, a decision ending the criminalization of homosexuality, your concurring opinion trumpeted a constitutionally protected “right to be different” and urged us all to exhibit a “greater sensitivity to the variability of the human kind.” These words, so meaningful to so many, serve also as a coda for your life’s work. to be different” and urged us all to exhibit a “greater sensitivity to the variability of the human kind.” These words, so meaningful to so many, serve also as a coda for your life’s work. We are grateful that one of your final sojourns before your triumphant return to South Africa was a residency at Columbia Law School, where you participated in a seminar on post-apartheid constitutionalism and shaped forever the thinking of the many faculty and students fortunate to hear you talk about democracy and human rights. For a lifetime spent urging South African society and others around the world to replace bigotry’s base violence and hatred with a vision of humanity commensurate with our capacity for insight and love, Columbia is proud to present you with the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.
Miloš Forman
he journey that carried you from a childhood in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia to a career as one of the most celebrated and beloved filmmakers of the last half century calls to mind Albert Camus’s basic insight that “life is the sum of all your choices.” For while your choices were sometimes harrowing, they were also liberating, allowing you to touch countless lives through your cinematic art and your admired teaching at this University. Your determination to live life fully and freely, and the example it provides to others, may be the very greatest of your legacies. Born to parents who perished in the Second World War’s concentration camps, you endured that tragic loss and, later, the oppression of life in communist Prague by becoming immersed in the creation of improvisational movies that subverted the strictures of authoritarianism. Amidst the chaotic events of the Prague Spring in 1968, you immigrated to New York City, where the bracing openness and experimentation of that time and place more than compensated for the challenges you faced as a newcomer in an adopted home. That transformative period enabled a young filmmaker in a foreign metropolis to emerge just a few short years later as the Academy Award–winning director of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, a film that captured America’s 1970s zeitgeist and that remains today one of only three movies to win all five major Oscars. It was certainly more than happenstance that the movie’s urgent plea for self-determination carried a deep personal resonance. The works that followed showcased the quality and the breadth of your skills as a filmmaker. Hair and Ragtime chronicled the beauty and pain of life in America in the twentieth century. Equally compelling were films that told the stories of Mozart, Larry Flynt, and Andy Kaufman—iconoclastic and creative figures who lived lives dedicated to reimagining the boundaries of social expectation and artistic expression. Amadeus brought your second Academy Award in 1985, placing you on a short list of our most honored film directors. Less public, though no less profound, has been your influence on generations of budding filmmakers who have studied at Columbia’s School of the Arts film program and have been lucky enough to call you their mentor. Your former students—many of them now influential directors in their own right—have been enriched by your belief in the power of compelling characters and an intriguing story to embolden, to educate, and to humanize. Indeed, your contributions as a professor, department chair, and now professor emeritus have helped raise Columbia’s film program to international prominence. For providing a personal example and a body of artistic achievement that challenges us to think deeply about life’s possibilities and the choices that shape our paths, Columbia is proud to present you with the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.
Theda Skocpol
any scholars are moved by the desire to advance a chosen academic discipline; some find inspiration in seeking to influence the world beyond the academy; and then there are those rare few who succeed extravagantly at both. You are, without question, an exemplar of this select group. A supremely gifted sociologist and political scientist, you have, through your prolific scholarly output of books, commentary, and research, influenced academic colleagues to reconsider their approach to studying people and politics while encouraging the broader public to look anew at issues of the highest civic concern. Your very first book, States and Social Revolutions, was described in an academic journal as a “remarkable” work that would help to “set the framework” for future scholarly debate—an achievement, the reviewer noted, to be expected as the capstone to a long academic career rather than as a debut. By assigning a heightened level of significance to state-level political structures and locating these considerations at the heart of your analysis of the French, Chinese, and Russian revolutions, you ushered in a new era of debate among sociologists and political scientists. You also led a similar transformation with your reappraisal of the role of women in American politics. Your wide-ranging set of interests, combined with an unwavering analytic acuity, established you at the forefront of your chosen fields of academic study for decades. Always, the linkage between your intellectual pursuits and society’s larger interests has been manifest. Your analyses of the successes and failures of health care reform and “cap and trade” legislation helped to illuminate the inner workings of the American political process. Your examination of the Tea Party’s rise in the age of the Obama presidency offered incisive commentary about a confounding political movement that manages to be simultaneously central to American political traditions and outside them. Yours is a body of scholarship that calls to mind a statement by philosopher Michel Foucault: “I don’t write a book so that it will be the final word; I write a book so that other books are possible.” For years, you have initiated conversations with your academic colleagues and students that raise issues too urgent to be dismissed and too consequential to be quickly resolved. Perhaps your greatest legacy is the vast amount of reflection and learning that has occurred beyond your own classrooms, among those many interested citizens engaged by your distinctive insights regarding society’s most pressing concerns. For brilliantly activating the discourse and debate that is the lifeblood of both higher education and representative democracy, Columbia is proud to present you with the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa.

2014

Renzo Piano
“The thing of first importance in architecture-is beauty," Charles McKim once told Columbia students. Yet the legendary architect, who designed the unsurpassed Morningside campus we delight in every day, was driven also by a second impulse, one he expressed to his friend Edith Wharton: "The designer should not be too slavish, whether in the composition of a building or a room, in his adherence to the letter of tradition.” Among our contemporary architects, if there is a worthy modern successor able to reflect McKim's spirit of both beauty an d innovation in the design of a new Columbia created for a new century, it must be Renzo Piano. Born in Genoa, Italy, to a family of builders, you have designed iconic structures and urban spaces all over the world, including the Menil Collection, the Kimbell Art Museum, and the Nasher Sculpture Center in Texas, the reconstruction of Potsdamer Platz in Berlin, and The New York Times headquarters and Morgan Library addition in New York. Your early 1970s collaboration with Richard Rogers produced the revolutionary Centre Pompidou in Paris. Your works of soaring beauty push beyond and reinvent our traditions, animated by the organic vibrancy of urban life. Over the past decade, your dedication to Columbia has produced both a remarkable master plan for the University's 21st century campus in Manhattanville, and inspiring designs for the new campus's first three buildings: the Jerome L. Greene Science Center, the Len fest Center for the Arts, and the Academic Forum. Always in evidence is your creativity, your broad-minded intelligence, and, most significantly, a determination to design modern academic spaces that arc open and welcoming to the surrounding city from which Columbia gains its identity. Fittingly, ours is the first campus plan in the nation to earn the LEED Platinum rating for sustainable neighborhood development. A recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1998, you created the Renzo Piano Foundation, dedicated to architectural education and public service. In September 2013, the president of Italy made you Senator for Life. We are certain that when future generations of Columbians inhabit the thriving campus you have designed, they will stop and wonder, as we do every day at Charles McKim's great achievement that surrounds us, about the combination of foresight, humanity, and unbridled imagination that were alive in the architect responsible for its creation. It is therefore with enormous gratitude and deeply felt admiration that this generation of Columbians proudly presents you with the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.
Alisa Weilerstein
In a life spent creating music that a thrills and inspires, you have set yourself apart as a cellist of exceptional talent and singular presence. A skilled artist who blends virtuosity and joy, you possess that rare ability to play a piece as if it were being played anew, infusing each performance with your distinct personality. Throughout your precocious career, you have pushed the boundaries of your craft, challenging assumptions about classical music and exposing new audiences to the pleasures it can bring. Your life story speaks to the power of skill, ambition, and love at the heart of artistic mastery. As a child, you were presented with your first cello, a painted cereal box, and, from that moment, you knew exactly what it was you wanted to do. Supported by your family of gifted musicians, you mad e your professional debut at thirteen and went on to perform with the world's greatest orchestras and conductors, championing new music alongside your classic repertoire. For your accomplishments, you were awarded a MacArthur Fellowship at th e age of 29. Your contributions to classical music call to mind Claude Debussy's declaration that, "Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art." In every performance, your expert technique, honed through rigorous practice, allows you to assert yourself freely on stage, connecting with the audience through undiluted expressions of emotion and feeling. Within a musical tradition often cerebral and restrained, your passionate interpretations of cello compositions succeed at being dramatic and innovative without losing their integrity. When it became necessary for you to decide whether to attend Columbia College or focus on your increasingly demanding performance schedule, you chose to do both-and graduated in 2004 with a degree in history. The challenging experience has left you steeped in the culture and ideas that shaped the modern world and with the unshakeable intellectual curiosity that comes from a Columbia education. For your commitment to expanding the boundaries of classical music and for your determination to make your own rules in the service of great art, Columbia is proud to count you as one of our own an d welcome you back to campus to receive the University Medal for Excellence.
David Remnick
There is, perhaps, no greater professional challenge than assuming the leadership of an iconic and beloved public institution, with the mandate not only to embrace the storied legacy but also to reach new heights of excellence, creativity, and achievement. Yet, this is unquestionably what you have done as editor of The New Yorker. Only two years after becoming editor, you were named Editor of the Year by Advertising Age in 2000. The magazine has been without peer throughout your time at the helm, winning some thirty National Magazine Awards, including five in both 2001and 2005. That you have fulfilled the weekly responsibility of overseeing a remarkable staff of talented writers, editors, contributors, cartoonists, and infamous fact-checkers while continuing to generate your own prodigious output of acclaimed articles and books seems an incomprehensible journalistic feat-one that can leave even the most accomplished colleagues wondering, like hapless characters in a Roz Chast cartoon, just how you do it. More than 100 articles in the magazine have carried your byline, including memorable profiles on many of our time's most consequential figures, including Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Shimon Peres, Ralph Ellison, Katharine Graham, Pope John Paul II, Michael Jordan, and Barack Obama. You joined The New Yorker after a decade at The Washington Post, where you began by bringing a uniquely literary insight to an eclectic mix of beats for the Metro, Sports, and Style sections: articles covering everything from desultory mid­ season Washington Bullets games to New Jersey Turnpike rest stops. In 1988, you began a four-year tenure as Moscow correspondent for the Post, giving you the opportunity to witness history and to chronicle the tumultuous collapse of the Soviet Union. You responded with your first book, Lenin’s Tomb, winner of both the 1994 Pulitzer Prize from Columbia and a George Polk Award for excellence in journalism. You have since edited seven anthologies of New Yorker articles and authored an eve r-growing list of acclaimed and popular books, including, most recently, The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama. From the postmodern poetry of John Ashbery to the pugilistic art of Muhammad Ali, there are few areas of human endeavor to which you have not brought your insightful reporting, graceful writing, and respected editing skills. As a result, we are a more literate, better informed society. For what will yet be a long career already defined by the highest level of journalistic excellence, Columbia is proud to present you with the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa.
Natasha Trethewey
When the great Rita Dove, your predecessor Poet Laureate of the United States, selected your first collection of poems, Domestic Work, for the inaugural Cave Canem Prize, she showed great prescience in calling you a poet "in full possession of her craft, ready to testify." And testify you have: memorably, achingly, and with impassioned conviction. In Domestic Work and the equally remarkable volumes that followed, Bellocq's Ophelia and Thrall, you erected monuments to life's invisible experiences, instantly rendering them meaningful and familiar. In Native Guard, the collection for which you were awarded the Pulitzer Prize from Columbia in 2007, you excavated the lives of the first official regiment of black Union soldiers, bonding their stories to your own and restoring their place in our collective history. At the heart of each tour de force beats a strong and steady insistence on building a more just society. Matching your artistry is a personal devotion to cultivating the next generation of creative writers. At Emory University, where you are the Robert W. Woodruff Professor of English and Creative Writing, the classrooms graced by your teaching ring with the encouragement and guidance young poets need to find their voices and tell their own stories. Over and over, your students' awareness of their potential is expanded forever. You have embraced your position as nineteenth Poet Laureate of the United States with the determination of someone keenly aware of the importance of this call to service. As laureate you have proven a brilliant and accessible herald, whether holding court in the Library of Congress or traveling far and wide to bear witness to poetry's potent force in the most unlikely corners of America. Like the subjects of your poem, "Wash Women," staring out from a past that has been erased, your body of work urges us to remember through verse and reclaimed histories. For this, you have been recognized by the American Academy of the Arts and Sciences, the National Endowment of the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation, among many other honors. For your singular testimony on the preciousness of memory, and for your insistence that poetry must record, recover, and reveal all of our stories, Columbia is proud to present you with the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa.
Mortimer Zuckerman
When considering the stunning variety and remarkable impact of your myriad accomplishments, it is possible to see the very definition of a modern “Renaissance Man." Commerce, urban development, politics, journalism, academe, international affairs, neuroscience, and public health: each a world onto itself, and somehow, remarkably, every one of them a significant part of the wide world of Mort Zuckerman. The son of Jewish immigrants who came to Montreal seeking a better life for their children, you are yourself an immigrant, one who has not simply accepted but celebrated the responsibilities of the American citizenship you have chosen. From the outset of your career, you developed a guiding appreciation for the civic dimensions of real estate development and seized the opportunity to become enmeshed in the fabric of our nation’s great cities. You have been the responsible steward of cherished urban landmarks such as the John Hancock Tower in Boston, the Embarcadero in San Francisco, and the Citigroup Center and General Motors Building in New York City. In your weekly column in U.S. News and World Report, in your spirited turns as a political commentator on television, and through the New York Daily News' influential role in our city's politics and civic life, you have always been in the middle of our messy but essential public debate urging others, through your example, to leave the sideline and join the democratic fray. No legal treatise on the value of free speech and press could provide a more meaningful endorsement of the First Amendment and its role in shaping the character of your adopted country. Future generations will come to know you through the generous philanthropy you have bestowed on medical science and higher education, including your support of Columbia’s Mind Brain Behavior Institute, which will forever bear your name. From our own campus to the halls of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, your support for interdisciplinary research and clinical breakthroughs will add to the storehouse of human knowledge, while helping to cure disease and save lives. With this litany of achievement in mind, we recall the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson about life's purpose: "To be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well." For setting an example for all who aspire to make a difference as active citizens in a free society, Columbia celebrates the life you have lived so well and proudly presents you with the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.
Robert Silvers
Over your half century at the helm of The New York Review of Books, much has been revealed about your surpassing talent including, perhaps most essentially, that for you the job of editor is no mere occupation. It is who and what you are. A learned polymath, tireless reader, and fierce literary champion, you have earned your place among the greatest editors of our time. In her famous I 959 critique of literary reviews, Elizabeth Hardwick, your good friend who would later make her mark on the faculty of Columbia's School of the Arts, wrote: "For the great metropolitan publications, the unusual, the difficult, the lengthy, the intransigent, and above all, the interesting, should expect to find t heir audience:' Taking up Hardwick's call, you and your peers started a little publication that aimed to create a worthy arena for capacious intellectual discussions at the intersection of books, politics, and culture. For the past 50 years, against increasingly long odds, that periodical-The New York Review of Books-has demonstrated that an audience for rousing ideas and for writing of the highest caliber not only exists; it can be one of the most reliable forces in publishing if that audience's high standards are met with consistency. Indeed, The New York Review Books and its loyal readership have enjoyed an enduring marriage made in journalistic heaven. Together with co-editor Barbara Epstein, you advocated a view of literature as a serious enterprise, one with unique power to affect individuals and society at large. Your determination to supply rigorous examinations of modern geopolitical conflict has always been evident in the pages of the Review, where you have given voice to activists Vaclav Havel, Fang Lizhi, and many others persecuted for challenging state authority. Under your exacting guidance, scores of eminent writers have scrutinized government abuses of power, posed enduring philosophical questions, and grappled with crucial failings in diplomacy and policy. The Review continues to define itself by adhering to the highest intellectual standards at a time when thought­ provoking, stimulating, eccentric pieces of literary journalism have become increasingly rare. Your achievement has been duly recognized with honors from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the British Academy for the Humanities and Social Sciences. For your unwavering devotion to cultivating the greatest literary minds of our time and for your determination to provide a n appropriately high-minded forum for our most consequential public debates, Columbia is deeply grateful and therefore proud to present you with the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa.
Cicely Tyson
In a career devoted to making great art in the service of social justice, you have distinguished yourself as an actress of uncommon talent and a human being of extraordinary moral conviction. An activist from the start, you wanted your work to be transformative, to educate the world about the beauty, the pain , and the diversity of experience that define what it means to be a black woman in America. And you have succeeded, extravagantly, at this lofty task. Your life story is a testament to how perseverance and creativity can transcend seemingly insurmountable divides. Born in Harlem in the era of segregation, you made it your mission to reach people through your artistry, taking on only those roles you felt contributed to the national conversation on civil rights despite the considerable professional cost you endured as a result. Always, your acting has been brilliant. Long remembered will be performances bringing to life historic icons such as Harriet Tubman an d Coretta Scott King and the literary giants Miss Jane Pittman and Carrie Watts. Over time, your principled commitment was rewarded in the most meaningful fashion, with a hard-won stature accorded only those rare popular artists who stand for something larger than their craft. Along the way, there has been no shortage of recognition for your virtuoso acting. From the Drama Desk Award received for your 1962 performance in the off-Broadway play Moon on a Rainbow Shawl to a crowning Tony Award for Best Actress for your wrenching portrayal in the 20 I 3 production of The Trip to Bountiful-and too many nominations and awards to count in between-acclaim for your memorable performances on stage, screen, and television has been universal. With each of the complex and inspiring women you have portrayed, you share the indomitable spirit captured so beautifully by this declaration attributed to Harriet Tubman: "Don't ever stop. Keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.” As you have impressed upon countless young people whose lives have been changed by calling you their teacher, no goal is out of reach if one is willing to work hard enough to accomplish it. For nearly six decades, you have kept going, using your enormous gifts as an actress to remind us all of the work still to be done to redeem our nation's founding ideal of equality. For this reason and for so many more, Columbia is proud to present you with the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.
Joseph Keller
Bertrand Russell said, "The true spirit of delight, the exaltation, the sense of being more than Man, which is the touchstone of the highest excellence, is to be found in mathematics as surely as poetry:' Your career certainly has been an exemplar of that truth. Indeed, the underpinning of your work as one of the world's preeminent applied mathematicians has been a consuming curiosity paired with a boundless imagination. These traits, as much as your intellectual brilliance, have produced copious amounts of new scientific knowledge, while leaving your students and colleagues enthralled. Your research has encompassed diverse topics ranging from single perturbation theory and fluid dynamics to carcinogenesis and biomechanics-even the mathematics of sports. The Geometric Theory of Diffraction, your groundbreaking description of wave propagation around the edges and corners of an obstacle, has long been a n indispensable tool for engineers and scientists. For this body of scientific accomplishment and its role in bettering society, you received the Wolf Foundation Prize in Mathematics in 1997, one of the highest accolades in your field. Early on, as a student at New York University, your unusual talent for devising practical solutions through elegant mathematical models stood out. While tackling subjects as critical as national security and as commonplace as a swinging ponytail, your research revealed a commitment to observing and clearly explaining physical phenomena in the hope of improving human experience. During your long tenure as a professor of mathematics at NYU, you helped create the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, a world-renowned center for advanced training in mathematics and computer science. Your principal association with this University came during World War II, when, as a member of Columbia’s Division of War Research, you joined other talented scientists supporting the war effort by analyzing the use of sonar in submarine detection. Your journey in academe took you eventually to Stanford, where you have taught generations of students to analyze physical phenomena and have shared your innate wonder at the intricacy and beauty of mathematical modeling. You were always a sought-after adviser, and today the students of your students who are making their mark in the field of applied mathematics number in the hundreds. For your exceptional contributions to science and society and for the true spirit of delight with which you have approached mathematics, Columbia is proud to present you with the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa.
David Rosand
When in the 1950s you followed the a archetypal path to Morningside Heights traveled by so ma n y other sons of Brooklyn, you scarcely could have imagined that a t Columbia you would find an intellectual haven perfectly suited to your questing mind and a welcoming home that would sustain your own exemplary life in the academy for the next six decades. As a Columbia professor, you have distinguished yourself as a teacher of exceptional talent and a colleague of uncommon geniality. Your devotion to this institution resonates widely, from the Department of Art History and Archeology you twice chaired to the Wallach Art Gallery you helped to create. Fittingly, you have s pent your life studying the great masters of Renaissance Venice, determined to transmit what they can teach us about the mysteries of existence. A scholar in the classic sense, you always embraced research and teaching as mutually rein forcing endeavors. Your intellectual pursuits and those of the University have been perfectly synchronous, focusing broadly on the life of the mind without undue deference to traditional academic boundaries. You have inspired Columbia students and colleagues alike to reexamine their assumptions and explore new approaches to persistent problems. "Not to engage in the pursuit of ideas is to live like ants instead of men," philosopher and fellow Columbian Mortimer Adler once said. It is an n admonition you knew instinctively. As an undergraduate, you discussed the epics of Homer and Virgil, the dramas of Aeschylus and Sophocles, and the plays of Shakespeare. A budding artist in your own right, you were drawn into academe by the rich, layered paintings of Titian, Veronese, and Tintoretto and held there by the enthralling world of sixteenth-century Venice they inhabited. Through these giants of creative expression, you explored the transformative power of art to define how we think about life, love, and the expansiveness of human potential. For half a century, your remarkable achievements have served as a testament to the power and the joy of an education at Columbia, where generations have found kinship in debating the most difficult questions about the human experience. For your rare blend of scholarship, mentorship, and, above all, for your life time pursuit of ideas, Columbia is proud to present you with the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa.

2013

Alicia Abella
Upon receiving a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Columbia’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science—your third graduate degree from the University—you wasted no time in putting your scientific brilliance and technical expertise to productive use. In the eighteen years since joining AT&T Labs, you have conducted groundbreaking research into human-computer interaction, social media, and data analytics and are now the Executive Director of the Innovative Devices and Services Research Department. Your determination and skill have created enormous value for society, from improvements in Interactive Voice Response Systems relied upon by millions of consumers, to technology that has made teleconferences a more efficient—and environmentally sustainable—alternative to air travel. By humanizing the way in which our networked society connects, you are helping to improve how people live, work, and communicate. Yet some see your greatest professional contribution in your actively engaged mentorship of a new and more diverse generation of aspiring scientists and engineers. Your leadership of the Young Science Achievers Program and the AT&T Labs Fellowship Committee has encouraged high school and postsecondary students from diverse backgrounds to pursue, in your words, “their own version of the American dream.” They and we admire the extraordinary example you have set as a first- generation Cuban-American woman flourishing in a field traditionally dominated by men. Fittingly, two years ago, you were selected by President Barack Obama, and sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, as a member of the Presidential Advisory Commission for Educational Excellence for Hispanics. As Justice Sotomayor herself has explained, role models provide more than inspiration; their flesh and blood existence, she said, turns others’ self-doubt into self-confidence with the knowledge that, “Yes, someone like me can do this.” For your pioneering accomplishments in developing technology that better serves society’s needs, and for your personal commitment to helping others follow in your footsteps, Columbia is proud to welcome you back to campus to present you with the University Medal for Excellence.
Stanley Falkow
Philosopher and educator John Dewey said that “Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination.” That perfectly captures your extraordinary contributions to the fields of microbiology and immunology. Through your penetrating and imaginative research into the relationship between microorganisms and human biology, you have revolutionized our understanding of the mechanisms germs use to cause disease and pioneered discoveries in antibiotic resistance. That deepened knowledge has been of invaluable service to society, influencing critical developments in issues of public health, medical, and agricultural practices. Your life story speaks to the power of curiosity at the heart of scientific inquiry. As a young boy, you looked up at the stars and were filled with an overwhelming desire to discover what lay beyond. When you discovered the book Microbe Hunters, your enchantment with the mysteries of microscopic organisms and the trailblazing researchers who discovered them set you on a different, earthbound scientific path. Propelled forward by undergraduate experiences in the lab and with hospital patients, you became a microbe hunter yourself. Your ability to grasp the perspective of a bacterium allowed you to ask simple but profound questions, challenge prevailing assumptions about germs and disease, and make critical discoveries that have enhanced understanding of human health. You have said that “the greatest compliment one can receive is when a student says he or she wishes to work with you.” As a result, your most enduring legacy may be the generations of loyal students whose wishes became reality and whose scientific careers you helped launch. For your exceptional blend of scholarship, mentorship and, most of all, invaluable audacity of imagination, Columbia is proud to present you with the degree of doctor of science, honoris causa.
Herbert and Florence Irving
Over your rich lifetime together, you have demonstrated—as few couples have—the great good that comes when society is repaid for the opportunities it provides. Your longstanding example of humility, integrity, selfless generosity, and steadfast loyalty is one from which we all can learn. David Rockefeller once observed that “Philanthropy is involved with basic innovations that transform society, not simply maintaining the status quo or filling basic social needs.” You have understood this instinctively, even as your support for great causes and institutions always has been grounded in personal experience. The Columbia University Medical Center, first known to you through the care it provided, is now home to the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center, where more than 3,500 new cases of cancer are diagnosed and treated every year, and the Irving Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, dedicated to speeding the development of new treatments and delivering them more quickly and effectively to patients in need. Perhaps your most far-reaching contribution to curing disease and caring for the sick is embodied today in the 103 Irving Scholars selected since 1987 for the Florence and Herbert Irving Clinical Research Career Awards. The group includes a director of clinical research at the National Institutes of Health, three medical school deans, and twenty-six directors of programs and departments: a cohort of physician-scientists who are defining the future of medicine. This special combination of vision and generosity, forged over the years in partnership with the Medical Center’s leaders, is felt every day in the University’s laboratories and classrooms, and in the care provided by Columbia-trained doctors. Your support for New York City’s great institutions has extended to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where your transformative gifts to the Department of Asian Art are reflected in the Museum’s galleries bearing your names, the curatorship you have made possible, and the scholarly activities placing the Museum at the forefront of presenting Asian art. Your marriage of more than seven decades provides a vivid example of how the shared commitment of a loving couple ripples outward over time, touching the lives of so many other people, achieving an enduring impact on our community, our city, and our society. For showing us the transcendent value of helping others, and for doing so with great modesty and grace, Columbia is proud to grant you each the degree of doctor of laws, honoris causa.
Arnold Rampersad
In a career devoted to illuminating the lives of American originals, you have helped us better understand who we are and how we came to be as a nation. Your biographies of towering figures like Langston Hughes, Ralph Ellison, W. E. B. DuBois, and Jackie Robinson have rightfully placed them at the center of our collective history, reminding us that America’s most enduring challenge is to embrace fully our founding ideals of equal justice for all. Your scholarship takes the full measure of each subject, offering a portrait that is nuanced and incisive. We encounter an elusive Langston Hughes, whose fierce ambition and passion for literature helped him produce masterful poetry celebrating the richness of black culture in all its forms. We meet Jackie Robinson, a young man of both athletic and intellectual gifts, who changed ideas about race relations in America not simply with a bat, ball, and bases run, but with courage, dignity, and grace under fire. We are also brought face to face with Ralph Ellison, a writer of astonishing gifts, who ultimately became isolated from the black community whose experiences he so powerfully chronicled. In The Souls of Black Folk, W. E. B. DuBois describes with haunting eloquence the power of literature to reach across racial and historical barriers and speak to each of us. “I sit with Shakespeare and he winces not. Across the color-line I move arm in arm with Balzac and Dumas,” he wrote. “I summon Aristotle and Aurelius and what soul I will, and they come all graciously with no scorn nor condescension.” Your admired scholarship and teaching reaffirm the essential value of ideas to transcend divides and enhance understanding of our shared humanity. For your elegant and insightful explorations of our nation’s past and its meaning for our present, Columbia is proud to move arm in arm with generations of your students, colleagues, and readers to present you with the degree of doctor of letters, honoris causa.
Paul Steiger
More than two centuries ago in arguing a libel case before New York State’s Supreme Court, Columbian Alexander Hamilton declared that the “office of a free press is to give us early alarm and put us on our guard against the encroachments of power.” For more than forty years, you have fulfilled this founding vision of journalism’s role as a moral force in a free society. As a celebrated reporter and editor for The Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times you built an unmatched track record of the highest quality newsgathering, shining an unwelcome light on abuses of power and failures by our institutions to uphold the public trust. Never one to settle for less than journalistic excellence, during your sixteen-year tenure as managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, your newsroom won an astonishing sixteen Pulitzer Prizes. You have been a leader and mentor, trusted by the loyal members of your newsroom over the years and admired by your peers across the profession. You never stopped being ahead of the news curve, as evidenced in 2008, when you saw clearly that in a changing news business, vital accountability journalism was at risk. While many news organizations viewed the painstaking, time-consuming work of investigative reporting as a luxury, you knew it to be essential to journalism’s mission. So you embarked on creating the next generation news organization in ProPublica: a nonprofit journalistic enterprise that exposes exploitation of the weak by the strong and reveals when those with power betray the trust they hold. Still in its first years of existence, ProPublica already is fulfilling that mission by investing in persistent, in- depth, and award-winning coverage of a wide range of major issues and institutions. Now serving as Executive Chairman, you have continued to be a leader in developing a new model for quality journalism in the digital age. Your service as the chairman of the Committee to Protect Journalists and as a former member and chair of the Pulitzer Prize Board at Columbia echo your personal commitment to maintaining a robust, uninhibited, and wide-open public square, free of censorship and, above all, capable of providing us with the information we need to address modern society’s challenges. In recent years, Columbia has benefited from your encouragement of the future journalists on our campus through your enthusiastic support for the Columbia Daily Spectator. For your uncompromising commitment to a free press capable of sounding the early alarms that guard our democracy, Columbia is proud to present you with the degree of doctor of laws, honoris causa.
Zena Stein
Wherever the art of medicine is loved, there is also a love of humanity.” These words, attributed to Hippocrates—as much aspiration as observation—serve as a fitting commentary on your life’s work and on a singular career defined by compassion, morality, and scientific rigor. As the setting for your study and practice of medicine shifted and expanded from Alexandra Township in South Africa; to Manchester, England; and then to Columbia University in the City of New York, so too have the subjects of your clinical interests and research. In a career spanning seven decades, you have contributed significantly to: the care available to nonwhite populations in apartheid-era South Africa; the understanding of the impact of economic disparities on public health; research into the prevalence and sources of perinatal disease; the linkages between prenatal nutrition, cognitive development, and other outcomes later in life; and society’s concern for HIV in women and children, including prenatal and perinatal HIV infection. Your dedication to advancing medical knowledge always has been accompanied by uncompromising advocacy for social justice, beginning with your efforts as one of the earliest members of the anti-apartheid movement during your college years in Cape Town. Many of your professional successes have been a family affair: you and your husband, Dr. Mervyn Susser, joined together to make Columbia’s Department of Epidemiology a recognized leader in the field, while your son, Ezra, has helped carry forward your research exploring the effect of prenatal conditions on adult health. Happily, one constant in your long and varied career has been Columbia University, which you have made your intellectual home for almost half a century and where you continue today as Professor Emeritus of Epidemiology. For loving humanity and medicine unconditionally, and for your enduring commitment to the promise of science and this University, we are proud to bestow upon you the degree of doctor of science, honoris causa.
Laurence Tribe
Your life in the law, deciphering and expertly explaining the Constitution’s intricacies in classrooms and courtrooms, can only be described with superlatives. Thirty-five times you have argued before the Supreme Court, securing numerous landmark rulings, including decisions that sanctioned lawsuits against tobacco companies, preserved state authority to ban nuclear plants, and ensured public access to criminal trials. Harvard University, where you have been an admired faculty member for forty-five years, bestowed upon you the rank of University Professor, the school’s highest academic honor. You count among the legion of former students who are now society’s leaders both the President of the United States and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. And your comprehensive and enduring treatise, American Constitutional Law, is indisputably the most frequently cited legal text of the past half century, a touchstone for the profession that has inspired, intimidated, and edified generations of lawyers. Among the countless brilliant attorneys who pursue excellence as both practitioner and scholar, you have few peers. How did this come to pass for a son of Russian Jewish parents, who arrived in the United States as a boy unable to speak English, after enduring a childhood in China lived in the shadow of tyranny and oppression? The answer is readily apparent to the students you have taught, the adversaries you have fought, the judges you have persuaded, and the faculty colleagues you have encouraged: a rare combination of towering intellect, fidelity to equal justice, and profound belief in the capacity of our Constitution to form a more perfect union has made you a singular legal scholar for our time. For bringing the American Constitution to life and for working tirelessly so that the framework for our democratic society fulfills its vast promise, Columbia is proud to present you with the degree of doctor of letters, honoris causa.

2012

Shu Chien
“There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere.” That insight, from Columbia alumnus, Isaac Asimov, has found a true expression in your extraordinary academic contributions to the fields of physiology and bioengineering. By transcending traditional boundaries separating biology, medicine, and engineering, you have pioneered an integrative approach to molecular and cellular bioengineering and deepened our understanding of something as basic as how blood flows through our veins. And that enhanced knowledge has led to advances in the treatment of sickle cell anemia, atherosclerosis, and a better understanding of stem cells and cancer cells. Your leadership in building the biomedical engineering program at the University of California, San Diego, is, in its own right, a lifetime achievement. Recognized across the nation for setting standards of excellence, this program has helped to create the scientific foundations for breakthroughs in systems biology, regenerative medicine, and multiscale bioengineering focused on the diagnosis and treatment of human disease. All the while, you have been an irreplaceable mentor to generations of students and postdoctoral fellows. Only ten other scholars share with you the honor of membership in the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. In November, President Obama awarded you the National Medal of Science, the nation’s highest recognition for scientists. Now, Columbia is proud to honor you on the campus where you began your celebrated career, first as a Ph.D. student, and then, for more than three decades, as a distinguished faculty member in the Departments of Physiology and Biophysics; and where, on five separate occasions, you were honored for the excellence of your teaching. For your rare and invaluable blend of intellect, curiosity, and generosity, it is with great pleasure that we present you with the degree of doctor of science, honoris causa.
Jean Franco
A true pioneer of Latin American studies, through your scholarship and writing spanning almost half a century, you are responsible for helping to introduce the English-speaking world to Latin American literature and creating a body of work that has shaped and defined your chosen field. The clarity and perceptiveness of your critical analysis of authoritarian government, mass culture, Marxism, Mexico’s history, postmodernism, and feminism have long been on display, nowhere more so than here at Columbia, the university that has been your academic home for the last three decades. From the auspicious publication in 1967 of The Modern Culture of Latin America to The Decline and Fall of the Lettered City: Latin America and the Cold War, which received the 2003 Bolton-Johnson Prize for best English work on the history of Latin America, your scholarship has wrestled with history and identity, as well as cultural politics. Always your work has been infused with an abiding concern for social justice. You insisted on an appreciation of literature that acknowledges yet moves beyond nationality and culture. As a result, you have been at the forefront of a historic transformation in higher education, which today celebrates global citizenship and learning in a manner you embraced in the 1960s. In this, you were once again ahead of your time and your peers. In recognition of your devotion to Latin American literature, you have been decorated by the governments of Mexico, Chile and Venezuela. You have served as president of the Latin American Studies Associations of Great Britain and the United States and have received the Association’s lifetime achievement award. For having long been a beacon in the study of Latin American literature and culture, Columbia is proud to bestow upon one of our most respected faculty members the degree of doctor of letters, honoris causa.
Amy Gutmann
Your life’s work in the academy shows that you have heeded well the admonition from the University of Pennsylvania’s founder, Benjamin Franklin, to “either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” You most assuredly have done both. The voluminous books, articles, and essays you have written or edited on ethics and public policy, democracy, and education, have made lasting contributions to political science and philosophy, while frequently serving as a corrective to a public discourse that has become altogether too fractious. As president of the University of Pennsylvania for the past eight years, you have supplied transformative leadership, moving one of America’s most respected institutions of higher education from, in your words, excellence to eminence. Bound together through our shared experience as great urban universities, Columbia salutes you and our University of Pennsylvania colleagues for so successfully navigating a familiar path in service of educating young citizens for a rapidly changing world. Indeed, from the creation of Penn Park, which connects your campus to downtown Philadelphia, to the no-loan financial aid policy you instituted to broaden college access, you have acted on the belief that both education and democracy demand engagement with society’s full spectrum and have done so with spectacular results. For this your university has earned the distinction of being the number one “good neighbor” among American colleges and universities, and the Penn Compact has become a model of civic participation. Your appointment by President Obama in 2009 as Chair of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues and your recognition by Newsweek magazine as one of 150 women who shake the world are fitting testaments to the scope of your impact. For your infectious enthusiasm and uncompromising leadership, and for your indelible mark on the field of political science and on higher education in America, Columbia is proud to bestow upon you the degree of doctor of laws, honoris causa.
Tom Kitt
A life story that stirs together a precocious affinity for music, undying allegiance to New York City, an unexpected star turn in a rollicking public duet with a rock-and-roll legend, and years of dogged collaboration with a college friend resulting in a convention-bending Tony Award– and Pulitzer Prize–winning musical sounds like the book to an especially implausible Broadway show. Yet it happens to be your unvarnished biography. Your busy career of composing, conducting, creating orchestrations and arrangements, and leading your eponymous band has, thus far, been highlighted by the revelatory music you composed for Next to Normal. The New York Times described it as a “surging tidal score” that “keeps shifting shapes, from dainty music-box lyricism to twanging country-western heartbreak, suggesting a restless, questing spectrum of moods.” There have been many other triumphs, from your work on the musical American Idiot, which was nominated for a Drama Desk Award, to your score of incidental music for the Public Theatre’s staging of The Winter’s Tale, along with your contributions to other productions on and off Broadway. Without question, future triumphs, showcasing your gift for theatrical composition, lie ahead. We take no small pride in the fact that your talent was first on display here at Columbia in the Varsity Show and Kingsmen performances, proving that in the performing arts, as in so many academic disciplines, Columbia continues its long tradition of setting the standard of excellence among new generations of writers and performers. For treating us all to an innovative brand of musical artistry that is at once atypical and yet perfectly suited to the stage, Columbia is proud to present you with the University Medal for Excellence.
Gloria Steinem
Few names in modern American history are as emblematic of a great social movement as yours. Through powerful writing on issues of equality and the creation of innovative new publications, you helped produce new journalism that, along with your organizing and activism, fueled fundamental changes in our society. Your distinctive mix of conviction, thoughtfulness, wit, and grace gave you a voice to speak for a generation and a gender, despite your oft-stated resistance to presuming such a role. Always making sure to reject the most grandiose assessments of your impact, you have declared your personal contribution to the women’s movement to be small relative to the collective impact of those who joined you. On this last point, we must disagree. Though you were making a larger statement, you could have been describing yourself when you said, “If you say, I’m for equal pay, that’s a reform. But if you say, I’m a feminist, that’s a transformation of society.” And transform society you have. Perhaps most insightfully, this is why you have described your work as not only feminist, but humanist as well. You famously critiqued women’s magazines for simply molding women into better consumers and showed us all a different way with Ms. magazine—energizing a world-changing conversation about reproductive rights, sexual harassment, domestic violence, and date rape when those issues barely occupied the periphery of America’s public discourse. It is a conversation that continues unabated today; indeed, it has never been more important at a time when seemingly long-settled progress faces new political challenge. You helped create the Women’s Action Alliance, the National Women’s Political Caucus, Voters for Choice, Ms. Foundation for Women, and the internationally recognized Take Our Daughters to Work Day. In the fights for women’s rights, civil rights, and gay rights, you have employed all of your considerable talents as an award-winning journalist, bestselling author, sought-after lecturer, and omnipresent activist and organizer. For the courage and tenacity to establish a new path forward for a more just society and for empowering countless others to join in this cause, Columbia is proud to bestow upon you the degree of doctor of laws, honoris causa.
Muhal Richard Abrams
“They teach you there is a boundary line in music,” Charlie Parker said. “But, man, there is no boundary line in art.” That insight captures perfectly the unique music you have created over a lifetime—a body of work that always has defied convention and never been predictable, while displaying your artistic mastery. From the release of Levels and Degrees of Light, your 1967 debut album, through your present-day compositions and performances, you have sought not simply to engage but to provoke the listener. A single Abrams composition can swing from Charles Ives to Jelly Roll Morton, Duke Ellington to Thelonious Monk, from trailblazers of electronic music and back to composers of the Great American Songbook. It is a passionately innovative style born of a musical dexterity that could come only from a self-taught virtuoso with boundless imagination. As you grew up on Chicago’s Southside, your keen eye, sharp mind, and attuned ear became your guide to the rich diversity of sound emanating from that city’s jazz scene. In 1965, faced with a paucity of hometown performance venues available to African American musicians who wanted to improvise and experiment, you co-founded the Association for the Advancement of Creative Music. The AACM became an incubator for generations of groundbreaking African American musicians seeking to develop their styles and play their way to wider audiences. First in Chicago and then in New York, you have continued in the role not only of innovative artist but also of dedicated mentor. Your compositions have been performed by the Chicago Symphony, Brooklyn Philharmonic, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and at Carnegie Hall by the Kronos Quartet. You have been inducted by DownBeat magazine into its Jazz Hall of Fame, and in 2010 the National Endowment for the Arts named you a Jazz Master. You were the first recipient of the prestigious international Jazzpar Prize conferred by the Danish Jazz Center in Copenhagen. In recognition of your wide-ranging contributions to our musical culture in both experimental and established idioms, Columbia is honored to confer upon you the degree of doctor of music, honoris causa.
Michelle Bachelet
Through your courageous public service and personal example of forgiveness and hope, you have improved lives and communities and helped a nation bind up historic wounds, all the while shattering gender stereotypes and barriers. Your life story speaks to both the pathos and promise of state power. Out of the suffering you and your family endured under the Pinochet regime, you gained firsthand experience of the human toll of authoritarian injustice, leaving you determined to protect the vulnerable from tyranny. Your career has been dedicated to fostering nonviolent change, democracy, social equality, and human rights. As Chile’s minister of health, you expanded access to quality care by remaking the nation’s system of public health clinics. As Latin America’s first female defense minister, you helped strengthen democratic control over military affairs and reshaped attitudes toward women in both the armed services and law enforcement. And as Chile’s first female president, you succeeded in preserving and enlarging social protections for children and women while battling the economic pressures of the global financial crisis. Who but a pediatrician trained at the world’s finest defense academies would possess the breadth of experience to assemble such a diverse record of accomplishment? Now, as the United Nations’ Under-Secretary-General for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women, and inaugural Executive Director of UN Women, you are bringing your experience as a citizen of the world to bear on urgent problems of global dimension. In you, women the world over in need of a champion have found a formidable advocate. Susan B. Anthony once said that true reformers cannot afford to be limited by society’s judgment: “Those who are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the world’s estimation.” For your earnest commitment to true reform and for personifying the bold, uninhibited, and generous leadership essential to social progress, Columbia is proud to present you with a doctor of laws, honoris causa.

2011

Keith Thomas
In a world dominated by short attention spans, forever accelerating technological innovation, and a prevailing obsession with the latest trends, your career as one of Oxford’s most revered historians stands as a reminder that few academic pursuits are more thrilling or meaningful than the insightful re-interpretation of earlier times and cultures. Your heroic capacity to search the depths of vast seas of source material has produced several sweeping narratives of early modern English life, each recognized as an enduring classic despite their sometimes radical departures from traditional interpretation. Interdisciplinary learning, whose value we recognize today, has long been essential to the distinctive approach to social and cultural history that characterizes your body of work. Employing the skills of a social anthropologist, you were able in your first book, Religion and the Decline of Magic, to trace society’s journey from a supernatural world where magic quelled anxiety to a world of reason and scientific inquiry. In Man and the Natural World: Changing Attitudes in England, 1500–1800, you illuminated the interplay of forces driving England from a society defined by its ascendancy over nature to one with a newfound concern for the environment and animal welfare, accompanied by similarly profound changes in hygiene, civility, and manners. Just two years ago, you again added to the learning in this field withThe Ends of Life: Roads to Fulfillment in Early Modern England, a magisterial work encouraging reflection on our own lives and a sense of shared experience with our forebears. Your contributions to historical scholarship have been celebrated by the British Academy, the Academia Europaea, the Japan Academy, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a Knighthood from the Queen. But nowhere is your intellectual achievement embraced with greater admiration and gratitude than among the legion of former students who have benefited from your teaching and mentorship. Generations of budding historians have been challenged and enriched by your distinctive approach to the discipline. The scholarly environment you created, the academic rigor you demanded, and the generous support you provided have been responsible for launching many accomplished academic careers—a tribute to the lasting impact of your scholarship and teaching. This sterling academic career unfolded while you also helped to lead the University of Oxford in a series of important administrative roles, including fourteen years as President of Corpus Christi College. With great respect and admiration for your many extraordinary achievements, we are proud to bestow upon you the degree of doctor of letters, honoris causa.
Joan Steitz
The phenomenon of inheritance has long puzzled the greatest scientific minds. Your brilliant scholarship at the forefront of RNA research has altered forever our understanding of the molecular basis of this once intractable mystery. The new knowledge you have discovered is at once astonishing and invaluable, supporting advances that are expected to one day revolutionize the diagnosis and treatment of disease. For those suffering from lupus and other autoimmune conditions, your research offers reason to believe that the day is drawing nearer when the fruits of scientific discovery will transform treatment regimens and improve the health of the chronically ill. As the first female graduate student to work in the laboratory of James Watson, the codiscoverer of DNA’s structure, you have inspired and encouraged countless women determined to succeed at the highest levels of scientific inquiry. Having once commented that you came of age when it was virtually impossible to find a woman at the top of any scientific discipline, you built a trailblazing career that has filled that void and provided a role model at the core of a rising community of women in science. Your many prestigious awards for scientific achievement convey only part of the story of your illustrious career. Students cherish your mentorship. Colleagues praise your brilliance. And in the future, patients are likely to reap lifesaving benefits from your self-described “personal love affair with RNA.” It is a love that distinguishes the scholarly temperament—the enduring passion for new discovery. For your pioneering leadership in and outside of the laboratory, we are proud to present you with a doctor of science, honoris causa.
Eleanor Jackson Piel
“The law will never make men free,” Henry David Thoreau said. “It is men who have got to make the law free.” In a legal career spanning seven decades, you have put that philosophical truth into practice and expanded its meaning for the enduring benefit of our city, our country, and our world. Your life in the law has defied convention, while making an indelible mark on the civil rights legacy of the United States through your efforts to seek justice for Japanese internment victims during World War II; your advocacy on behalf of New York City children facing gender-based segregation in public high schools; and your tireless work to free innocent prisoners on death row. In each case, your dedication has served to vindicate one of the most fundamental tenets of American democracy: equal justice under law. Your determination to ensure that the voices of all Americans are heard above the persistent din of discrimination moved seamlessly between the representation of vulnerable clients and your own efforts to open opportunity to female attorneys in a legal profession dominated by men. At the start of your career, a female Supreme Court justice or U.S. Attorney General was as unlikely seeming as the landslide election of an African American as President of the United States. Today, the presence of talented and deserving female lawyers serving at the top of the profession in both private practice and public service is a powerful testament to the success that you and a small group of pioneering contemporaries have had in opening new avenues of opportunity for women in the law. Indeed, your lifelong example of fearless leadership and principled advocacy suggests this addendum to Thoreau’s pronouncement: It is not just men, but women as equals who will make the law free. With the greatest respect for your accomplishments as a trailblazing lawyer and champion of social justice, we are proud to bestow upon you the degree of doctor of laws, honoris causa.
Martin Meisel
George Bernard Shaw, the subject of your first major published work, once remarked that “a gentleman is one who puts more into the world than he takes out.” Adopting that insight as our measure, we can say without equivocation that you have lived the life of a gentleman and a scholar. Your distinguished career in the academy has been defined by a courageous and wide-ranging intellect, a belief in the scholar’s duty to explain important truths, and, to Columbia’s lasting benefit, your fidelity to this University. Just four years ago, well into the fifth decade of an academic journey bending categories and defying categorization, you authored How Plays Work: Reading and Performance. Taking aim at questions at the very heart of dramatic literature, this audacious book presumes that we need to better understand the essential qualities of a familiar art form and then succeeds spectacularly in transforming and advancing that understanding. Consideration of the defining duality of a play—at once fully formed artistic expression and also performance script—becomes in your hands another opportunity to describe drama’s unique contributions among the world’s many forms of literature. With great clarity, you have taught us that comprehending the nuances of theatrical convention allows for the fullest appreciation of a playwright’s imagined world. During the forty-three years that Columbia has been your academic home, you have been cast in diverse roles, including Brander Matthews Professor of Dramatic Literature; chair of the Department of English and Comparative Literature; and University Vice President for Arts and Sciences; as well as emissary and liaison to the world of artistic communities beyond Columbia’s gates. In each and every capacity, you discovered your way to serve as mentor and teacher, always putting far more into the role of the moment than you took out. It is therefore no wonder that we know you not only as a gentleman, but also as an exemplary and resourceful contributor to the pursuit of new knowledge that gives a university community its reason for being.
Ornette Coleman
The label “revolutionary” is too weighty a classification for all but a select few artists; yet it fits you as comfortably as one of your porkpie hats. By inventing a new language of jazz and extending the boundaries of that uniquely American musical genre, you rightfully have earned that distinction and many more. As one critic has put it, “Metaphorically Mr. Coleman questioned his parents, if his parents were Charlie Parker, the blues, and American popular song. He broke from the family business.” Your theory of harmolodics threw off tradition and helped launch an era of “free jazz,” unconstrained by the rules of rhythm or the expectations of traditional forms. A groundbreaking marriage of melody and harmony, your music has inspired new generations of artists who seek to break the bonds of conventionality. From acoustic works and string quartets to full orchestras and ballets, your influence has stretched across multiple musical genres. Your virtuosity has provided a model to which countless musicians aspire. The many celebrated alumni of the “University of Ornette” praise you as a mentor and thank you for your teaching. Since the legendary New York City debut of Ornette Coleman at the Five Spot in 1959, you have assembled a career of consummate musical artistry, a career celebrated by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Miles Davis Award, a MacArthur Fellowship, and the Pulitzer Prize awarded here, at Columbia University. Now, in the city that witnessed the rise of your groundbreaking career, Columbia University recognizes your extraordinary contributions to our culture. It is with admiration and pride that we present you with a doctor of music, honoris causa.

2011

Lydia Polgreen
In a still young career, you have developed a distinctive style of reporting, recognizable for its rare mix of captivating storytelling, determined investigation, and the ability to employ all the tools available to modern journalism. Your skill in conveying the relevance of far away events to the lives of Americans has made an invaluable contribution to our public discourse. Reporting from Darfur, Chad, the Central African Republic, and Congo, you have courageously explained not only the human toll of ethnic violence, but also the complexity of the religious, historical, and political dimensions of these deadly conflicts. Now you are building on this impressive body of work, reporting from South Asia on a kaleidoscope of events ranging from violent protests in Kashmir to the work of a community kitchen in a Sikh temple. If journalism is indeed the first rough draft of history, then future historians one day will be joining today’s newspaper readers in thanking you as they apply their scholarly perspective to events you have conveyed with remarkable insight as they were occurring. On this campus, the many prestigious awards for foreign news reporting you have earned come as no surprise. You are remembered at our School of Journalism as an exceptional student, confident in your abilities yet eager for constructive criticism and dedicated to improving your craft. Happily, your postings to far corners of the globe have not kept you from returning regularly to share your experiences with the next generation of journalism students. In you, they see a model of professionalism and dedication, creativity and commitment.As do we. It is therefore with pride and admiration that we award you the Alumni Medal for Excellence.

2016

Amanda M Burden
It is fitting that we honor you at a moment when so many in New York City and beyond have turned their attention to the viral role of urban planning in modern society on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of Jane Jacobs's birth. Jacobs appreciated the art no less than the science of the calling you share, describing the cityscape as "an intricate ballet in which the individual dancers and ensembles all have distinctive parts which miraculously reinforce each other." Given the opportunity by Mayor Bloomberg to choreograph Gotham's ballet to a 21st-century score, you grabbed hold of the responsibility with both hands, leaving a mark on the city that has already become and will forever remain a part of its narrative. The chapter bearing your name tells of a modern renaissance. On the Brooklyn waterfront, the abandoned rubble of forgotten industrial piers became a sleek public park where families now sprawl on clipped grass, one of many welcome greenspaces of all shapes and sizes that have proliferated across the five boroughs. On a once­derelict railway line on the West Side of Manhattan, children dance amidst landscaped bushes and flowers as music plays. Across the city, newcomers nest in rezoned developments with plazas, pocket parks, and ready access to public transit. The city stretched to use neglected but invaluable parts of its urban domain, becoming more sustainable even as it expanded, and through this ambitious balancing act and your enthusiasm for innovation, you provided leadership to colleagues in cities around the world. The planning effort you led as the New York City Planning Commissioner was the largest in sixty years, rejuvenating thousands of blocks across 124 different New York City neighborhoods. Your rigorous attention to detail, from the placement of benches to concern about unintended consequences affecting shopkeepers, became a source of authority and respect in the contentious world of New York development. Your training at Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, in combination with the opportunity to learn from William H. Whyte and other masters of the craft, made you ideally suited for this role. Columbia University in the City of New York has for more than 260 years understood that our fate is inextricably bound to the fortunes of this metropolis, the greatest the world has ever seen. We have, over that time, proudly contributed a mix of new knowledge and public service to help our home city prosper. It is therefore a special privilege through this honorary degree to recognize you as a worthy addition to the roll call of Columbians who planned New York's street grid, subway system, and much more. With pride, we welcome you back to Columbia and honor you with a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.
Zhu Chen
Your special talent for curing disease, alleviating suffering, and transforming lives should not be allowed to obscure a different and essential feature of your remarkable life: an unusual ability to defy the odds in service of humanitarian goals. When the dictates of the Cultural Revolution prevented the completion of your medical studies, you embraced the work of a barefoot doctor, spending five years in the countryside caring for farmers and gaining new inspiration in the process. Given the opportunity to train at Shanghai Second Medical University, you demonstrated exceptional talent as a young hematologist and then found your way to Paris and the pursuit of a doctorate at Hôpital Saint-Louis at Université Paris Diderot. The barefoot doctor was on a path that would lead him to become China's Minister of Health from 2007 to 2013, overseeing the largest health system in the world, which since 1949 has witnessed the average life expectancy of the Chinese people rise from 35 to 75 years, an astonishing advance due in large part to the tireless work of women and men like you. During your time in France, you immersed yourself in a new field, molecular biology, and then carried that learning home with you where you focused your attention on the treatment of acute promyelocytic leukemia, a particularly lethal cancer without a known cure. Through an imaginative blending of Chinese and Western medical traditions, you were able to pioneer a new combination therapy that would save countless lives. Indeed, a cancer that once often resulted in death within a month of diagnosis now has remission rates of 90 percent, an outcome made possible by your creativity and determination. Your contributions have been widely recognized, including by La Ligue Nationale Contre le Cancer, which for the first time bestowed its highest award, the Prix de I'Oise, upon a non-French recipient. It gives us great pleasure, in adding to your honors with this degree, to be reminded of beloved Columbia alumnus and cardiologist, the late Clyde Wu, whose dedication to furthering innovative clinical research knew no bounds and whose fellowship you once held here. According to Hippocrates, "Wherever the art of Medicine is loved, there is also a love of Humanity." You have embodied this precept through a combination of brilliant scholarship, groundbreaking research, public leadership, and, most of all, an unwavering personal dedication to serving humanity. Columbia is therefore proud to present you with the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa.
Robert Darnton
Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison once explained that "access to knowledge is the superb, the supreme act of truly great civilizations." In this modern era of academic specialization, the role of broad-minded thinkers committed to the pursuit of new knowledge for its most elemental value has become all the more rare and all the more necessary. And you have been among our greatest champions in this cause. Though you attended Andover on a scholarship, graduated from Harvard magna cum laude, and were awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford where you studied for your Ph.D., the full flower of your academic career would have to wait until you first completed a stint as a crime reporter, attracted to journalism in part by your father Byron's career as a celebrated war correspondent for The New York Times. When, in your spare time in the reporters' bullpen at police headquarters, you found yourself more interested in reading Burckhardt's Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy than the day's police blotter, it was time to return for good to higher education. History was your true calling, and you found your home at Princeton University, where you were a member of the faculty for almost forty years and became the foremost historian of learning's main repository: the book. Your leadership in this field has spanned the dawn of the Internet age and come at a portentous moment for teaching and learning. The post of University Librarian at Harvard, home to the largest private library system in the world, has always carried special responsibilities. But only during your tenure did it involve, for example, issuing a warning about the dangers of commercializing information in response to Google's proposal to own the world's books. Your efforts to navigate the impact of the digital age on both the existing storehouse of knowledge and new research findings led to the creation of the Digital Public Library of America, accessible to people in almost every country on earth. You also championed Harvard’s creation of an open access digital repository for peer-reviewed literature, helping to revolutionize the way academics share their work. Who would expect that this devotee of the digital frontier was once a young scholar who took such pleasure in traveling to Switzerland and France for the opportunity to physically sift through rich source material –thousands upon thousands of documents describing the lives and times of established printers and publishers, as well as the shadier world of smugglers, rebels, and profligates who traded in the written word. No one has understood the unique learning made possible by the book more entirely, defended it more fiercely, or accomplished more to secure its future, than you. For preserving access to the knowledge on which civilization depends, Columbia is proud to present you with the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa.
Ban Ki-Moon
Since its founding more than 70 years ago, the United Nations has had as a central purpose, "to achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character." Yet only during your near-decade at the helm of the United Nations has the opportunity signaled by this goal become fully visible and the need to embrace it become so urgent. You have faced a formidable task and shouldered the burden admirably. Climate change, infectious disease, poverty, terrorism, refugee migration, violence against women, and financial instability. It is a roll call of 21st-century problems resistant to remedies engineered by any single nation, yet occurring at a moment when the prospect of reliable global cooperation, though closer at hand than ever before, often remains out of reach. Never have the words uttered by Trygve Lie, the UN's first Secretary-General, upon his passing of the torch to his successor, Dag Hammarskjöld, been more apt: "You are about to take over the most impossible job on earth." Perhaps your foremost asset in meeting this challenge is a personal history that exposed you, at a young age, first to the horror of modern warfare and then to the triumph of national rebirth supported by the international community. The travails of your childhood in Japanese-occupied Korea were surely on your mind as you stood among a group of young international Red Cross delegates on the White House lawn and heard President Kennedy say that collectively you personified the "hopes we can have for the future." It was a pivotal moment for an 18-year-old, setting you on course to become a diplomat, policy advisor, foreign minister, and, ultimately, only the eighth person to serve as Secretary-General of the United Nations. In this role, you have been determined to see progress on intractable, long-term challenges while remaining attuned to the exigencies and opportunities of the everyday. Responding to past United Nations' efforts to promote gender equality that were undermined by inadequate funding and the absence of a clear mission, you established UN Women, a new entity with the resources and governing mandate to bring an end to the pervasive gender violence and discrimination so shocking to the conscience of society. And just last month, at United Nations Headquarters, you presided over a ceremony that saw 175 world leaders sign the Paris Agreement for global action on climate change – the largest number of nations ever to sign an international accord on a single day. For a lifetime of selfless public service firmly grounded in President Kennedy's exhortation that "we are one human family and this one planet is our home," we are proud to present you with the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.
Susan Meiselas
The writer Samuel Johnson contended that "curiosity is, in great and generous minds, the first passion and the last." It is a sentiment perfectly capturing the twists, the turns, the audacity, and the genius that have given shape and meaning to your inimitable career as a photographer. For more than forty years, you have placed your trust in serendipity and personal freedom, following your artistic impulse to encounters with esoteric subjects, remote places, unexamined human experience, and events shaping the course of history. Committed to understanding and explaining the world on your own terms, you discovered a distinctive place for meeting the subjects of your photography, allowing you to produce unforgettable images that contextualize and humanize. These pictures gain their stunning power not simply by telling the stories of those rarely heard, but by doing so honestly and respectfully. They are photographs that faithfully encompass a reality beyond the frame and allow your subjects to speak for themselves, free from judgment and misinterpretation. You have always acknowledged the good fortune of being raised by parents who encouraged your imagination and your independence. Inspired by your graduate studies at Harvard, you chose the camera as your tool for exploring the world and embarked on an unconventional path that led you to New England’s traveling carnivals, encounters with strippers whom you ad mired for their strength and grit, and Nicaragua a t the dawn of the Sandinista Revolution, where you succeeded in showing the world the mix of hope and violence in that war-torn nation. For your accomplishments, you were awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. You continued to be drawn to subterranean injustices, which you sought to document and, through the testimony of your camera, combat. To Kurdistan you went, where you created a visual history of a resilient people still grappling with the trauma of attempted genocide. It is the rare artist who chooses subjects based on personal fascination and then infuses their portrayal with a profound humanity. Always your work is driven by a searching intellect and larger purpose. For your open mind, generous spirit, and a life lived in celebration of the value of curiosity, Columbia is proud to present you with the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.
Arthur Mitchell
That you rose to become one of the most celebrated figures in American ballet is a remarkable feat. That you did so within an artistic culture that at the time was marred by racial stereotyping and embedded prejudice defies expectations. For while talent and determination can produce a great artist, it takes still more to become a transformative figure. You have been just such a figure in the world of dance and beyond. Born in 1930s Harlem and faced with the need to begin supporting your family at age 12, your irrepressible talent would demand its place in your life. You danced with the School of American Ballet and later the New York City Ballet, where you performed an iconic and barrier-shattering interracial pas de deux with Diana Adams in Agon. These formative years contained both the pain inflicted by unvarnished racial prejudice and crushing insults and the great gift of learning from the masters George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein. Your fortitude and your faith in the power of art have meant so much, to so many. The groundbreaking performances you gave were full of personal courage and artistic innovation and succeeded in exploding the myth that African American bodies were unsuitable for classical dance. And your determination to co-found the Dance Theatre of Harlem in the wake of the loss of Martin Luther King Jr. stood then and stands today as an eloquent call to fulfill the slain leader's dream. In the new artistic space you created, the color of a child's skin would neither limit her horizons nor provoke the type of indignities you had suffered. Through your vision, work ethic, and the example provided by your art, you ultimately triumphed in throwing over rigid custom. Dance Theatre of Harlem proved that the classical art of ballet, created in the palaces of Renaissance Europe, would thrive amidst the grace and flair of Upper Manhattan. Columbia takes great pride in being home to your archives, which tell the story of a life's work inseparable from the culture and history of Harlem. By altering the face of dance, you have shown us the special power of the artistic endeavor: a sometimes subtle, sometimes blunt tool for pushing past boundaries and preconceived ideas of people and life. For your artistic genius and your remarkable resolve to overcome barriers, Columbia is proud to present you with the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.
Robert Owen Paxton
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, in his Nobel Lecture, asserted that "one word of truth shall outweigh the whole world," a claim aptly characterizing your potent scholarship. Modern society, with its plethora of wrenching conflict, frequently calls on the historian to reconcile us with our past. Yet few examples more starkly reveal the power of exacting scholarship to shift the understanding of individuals, and indeed entire nations, than does your reevaluation of the German occupation of France during World War II. As a young man, your devotion to comprehending and explaining the past in all its harrowing complexity helped you develop unerring vision, and led you to Germany and an extended journey through archives describing the recent past. There you confronted the distressing truth that Marshal Henri Philippe Petain's Vichy government was not a passive tool of Nazi rule but a collaborationist regime complicit in discrimination against, and the deportation and murder of, tens of thousands of Jews. Fierce, if predictable, opposition across French society threatened to impede a fair reading of your findings and their ultimate acceptance. You persisted, confident that pursuit of an essential truth about who we are would eventually prevail over political calculation and national pride. In time, your analysis became accepted fact, certified by President Jacques Chirac's admission of French complicity with the Third Reich in a landmark speech in 1995. You pressed forward with the controversial decision to testify at the trials of former Vichy officials. In doing so, you challenged accepted notions of the relationship between historian and history to supply context and nuance to France's effort to reckon with its past. For these efforts, you have been called part of the conscience of France, a distinction accompanied by prestigious awards, including the Légion d’honneur, the Ordre national du Mérite, and the rank of commandeur of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. Columbia has been honored to be your intellectual and professional home since 1969. Admired by colleagues for being a scholar of quiet yet powerful conviction, you inspired the careers of generations of students who saw in you an example of the transformative potential of the historian's craft. Your principled scholarship conducted over more than five decades shattered long-standing myths about French collaboration, recast our understanding of this seminal period in history, and elevated you to the stature of a historical figure in your own right. For marshalling your talent, your determination, and your moral compass to reveal a hidden truth that certainly did remake the world, Columbia is proud to present you with the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa.
Tracy K Smith
Natasha Trethewey, a treasured Poet Laureate of the United States and recent Columbia honorary degree recipient, describes poetry as a "sacred language that allows us to connect across time and space, across all the things in everyday life that separate us and would destroy us." You, Tracy K. Smith, have learned this sacred language and now speak it in your own distinctive voice. Over and over, you demonstrate the gift of being able to connect the intimacy of love and acceptance, yearning and absence, with the infinity of our fragile human lives. Each of your three collections is a standout: The Body's Question, your 2003 debut and winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize; Duende, which four years later earned the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets; and then Life on Mars, the 2012 Pulitzer Prize-winning volume described in another citation from this University as a "collection of bold, skillful poems, taking readers into the universe and moving them to an authentic mix of joy and pain." In your most recent work, Ordinary Light, you reveal the ability to extend this lyrical power beyond verse to produce a penetrating memoir of family and adolescence. Your special talent germinated in youthful experimentation aided by an early vintage Mac computer, which served as the vehicle for your word play, elaborate enjambments, and fledgling attempts at distilling the experience of a moment. You would hone your skill at the Dark Room Collective, a groundbreaking workshop you joined while an undergraduate at Harvard. Here at Columbia, you pushed yourself further, earning a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and gaining experience and wisdom from a different creative community enthralled by poetry's special alchemy. It is no wonder that words you heard years later in a simple song sung at your daughter's preschool—“when we tell our stories, we make power”—carry a special resonance for you. Now your students at Princeton have the great fortune to have you as their guide in telling their stories and finding their power. Your leadership of that university's creative writing program is driven by a commitment to the type of embracing community you found in Cambridge and then New York. Colleagues on the Princeton faculty join with your students in expressing their admiration for your insight, empathy, and enthusiasm—the very same qualities that have garnered praise for your work from the Academy of American Poets, The Rona Jaffe Foundation, the Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation, and the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. For speaking the sacred language of poetry so beautifully, so powerfully, and so truthfully, we are enormously proud to welcome you back to Columbia and to present you with the University Medal for Excellence.