Columbia is Turning 250

This milestone birthday provides us all—alumni, students, faculty, staff, neighbors, and friends—the chance to celebrate as we see fit. It invites us to take part in a year known as Columbia 250—to read the books, debate the lectures, screen the film, eat the cake, toast the statue, argue the facts, walk the Walk, click a link.

Centered on the campus where FM radio was born and X rays pioneered, our celebration aims for the high-energy voltage that defines Columbia—the contrasts between colonial legacy and scientific discovery, Socratic text and video age undergraduate, Ivy League and New York, tradition and rebellion.

Over the past six years, faculty, administrators, alumni, neighbors, students, and friends have been planning events to capture the energy of Columbia as a home to people and ideas that have changed the world. Under an executive committee co-chaired by Henry L. King ’48CC, chair emeritus, University Trustees, and Kenneth T. Jackson, Jacques Barzun Professor in History and the Social Sciences and president of the New-York Historical Society, more than 130 volunteers have served on Columbia 250 committees planning everything from alumni participation to publications to special exhibitions. Now Columbia 250 can present the fruits of that labor in a full calendar of academic and celebratory events between opening weekend, October 15-19, 2003, and closing weekend, October 1-3, 2004. Complete information can be found on the Columbia 250 Web site ( or by calling 877-250-TH-CU.

“The observance of Columbia’s 250th anniversary gives us an opportunity to reflect on the University’s remarkable history and its great contributions to the nation’s intellectual life,” says Provost Alan Brinkley. “But it is also a reminder of our long and continuing partnerships with this great city and its many communities, which have been central to our past and will be central to our future.”

The framing of this observance—homecoming to homecoming—reflects the importance of alumni in making the year a success. But even as Columbia 250 invites you to a yearlong homecoming, we recognize that you are adults. We know that returning, older, you will measure how much has changed, how much is the same. You will touch much that’s familiar and discover something new. You can explore drawers you never thought to open (a visit to Baker Field or a new academic interest). You will bring a more developed consciousness to the art on the wall, the conversations in the rooms, the photos in the albums. You might even want to learn.

So along with a birthday bash, an Erykah Badu concert, and a football game, this fall’s homecoming includes a Fred Friendly Seminar taping, a book party for a new comprehensive history of Columbia, a screening of Ric Burns’s new documentary on Columbia, and two academic symposia—one on the social and medical repercussions of genes and genomes, the other on constitutions, terror, and civil liberties.

“Remembering our past, knowing where we came from is critical to having an identity, whether as individuals or institutions,” President Lee C. Bollinger observed in his inaugural address

last year. Opening weekend ushers in 12 months when alumni and friends across the country will be coming home in the largest sense. On campus, in gatherings around the globe, and on the Web, they will explore deeply and joyously where Columbia came from, what it is, and where it might be going.

Links: Columbia 250 Events; Join the celebration and register to win!