Austin Quigley
Quigley to step down after 14 years as College dean

Columbia College today is a very different place from when Austin Quigley took over as dean in 1995. Back then, the College’s leaders were still learning to operate a fully residential institution, after having enrolled mostly commuters through the late 1980s. The Columbia College experience was defined largely within the walls of Hamilton Hall, in classrooms with the likes of historian James Shenton and poet Kenneth Koch; for many students, residence halls were places mainly to lay your head at night.

Today, student life at Columbia has been transformed. On any given night, students are hosting cultural activities in a thriving new student center, they’re accompanying professors on group excursions downtown, they’re meeting with alumni to discuss their career paths, and they’re taking part in new extracurricular art and music programs. “Intellectual life and social life are complementary learning environments so that, for example, the library is a social center as well as an intellectual resource, and is organized as such,” says Quigley. “Likewise, the student activities center is also an educational center and it, too, is structured to serve that purpose. All of these changes have created a truly comprehensive education experience that links learning in the classroom to learning in the residence halls, the dining halls, the student center, the athletic fields, and the city.”

After Quigley steps down as dean next summer, his legacy likely will be defined by this transformation of the undergraduate experience, which has helped the College attract the brightest students in its history. Since Quigley took over as dean, applications have more than doubled, from 8700 to 19,000; the rate of acceptance sharpened from 23 percent to less than 9 percent, which makes Columbia the most selective college in the U.S. after Harvard and Yale; and the average SAT score for freshmen jumped 45 points.

“Deciding when to move on from a position of responsibility is always a challenge, but wisdom is on the side of doing so when things continue to go well, so a successor will have the opportunity to steer that positive momentum toward new priorities,” Quigley wrote in a letter announcing his decision to faculty and staff on May 21.

At the end of the upcoming school year, he will have led the University’s primary undergraduate college for 14 years, making him the second-longest-serving dean in the College’s 254-year history. Only the mathematician Herbert E. Hawkes, whose tenure stretched from 1918 to 1943, led Columbia College longer.

Quigley realized his vision for Columbia College in part by spearheading an ambitious building program with former president George Rupp and current president Lee C. Bollinger. He helped oversee the construction of the Alfred Lerner Hall student center and Broadway Residence Hall, as well as the renovations of Butler Library, Furnald Residence Hall, and Hamilton Hall, including 37 completely refurbished classrooms. Student services were also upgraded, with special attention paid to improving internship and fellowship opportunities, academic and career counseling, and study abroad programs.

These improvements were made possible largely by alumni giving: Columbia College’s annual fund, which consists of cash gifts for immediate use, increased from about $5 million in 1995 to more than $13 million this year. During that period, the value of the College’s endowment for financial aid rose from about $110 million to $426 million and Columbia received the largest gift ever to a university for financial aid — a pledge of $400 million by John Kluge ’37CC, half of which is dedicated to the College. Partly as a result of that pledge and confidence in future alumni giving, the College announced earlier this year that students whose families earn less than $60,000 will no longer pay tuition, room, board, and other fees.

The record levels of giving also have enhanced undergraduate teaching programs. The Core Curriculum has broadened to include more courses in science and non-Western cultures; meanwhile, in part through the creation of new endowed professorships, the Arts and Sciences departments have strengthened undergraduate instruction.

“The key to all this success, I believe, is Austin’s attitude that if you treat all members of your community with respect, they’ll be your greatest resource,” says Richard Witten ’75CC, the current vice chair of the University trustees. “For many years at Columbia, coming out of the experiences of the late ’60s and ’70s, students and alumni were seen as problems. Austin changed that. As an alumnus, I can say that we’re seen now as an integral part of the University’s brain trust, as a source of creativity and energy, and we’re encouraged to participate in campus life on all counts.”

Quigley, an expert on the playwright Harold Pinter, will remain at Columbia as the Brander Matthews Professor of Dramatic Literature and serve as a special adviser to the president on undergraduate education. He says he’s looking forward to teaching more extensively and completing a book on Pinter’s relationship to the trajectories of modernism and postmodernism. “Serving as dean has been a tremendous privilege,” says Quigley, “but I love the debates in class with my students, the way they challenge received ideas and search for new ones, often managing to formulate better questions along the way.”

—David J. Craig

From left, Fred Kavli with professors Louis E. Brus and Thomas E. Jessell at Columbia May 29  
Brus and Jessell win first Kavli Prizes

The Kavli Prizes were created recently to be the equivalent of the Nobel Prizes in nanoscience, neuroscience, and astrophysics. This year, the awards in two of those fields will go to Columbia professors: Louis E. Brus ’69GSAS and Thomas E. Jessell.

The names of the inaugural winners were announced at a May 29 press conference simulcast between Oslo and, fittingly, Columbia University, where hundreds of scientists were gathered in Low Library to kick off the first annual World Science Festival. The Kavli Prizes, each of which includes $1 million cash, will be presented formally at a ceremony in Oslo this September. The awards are funded by the Norwegian-born inventor Fred Kavli and administered by the Norwegian government.

Louis E. Brus won the nanoscience prize for his work on the optical properties of semiconductors. Brus discovered in the 1980s that the size of semiconducting molecules helps determine their energy level and the color of light they emit. He then collaborated with engineers to make smaller and smaller, and thus more high-energy, synthetic particles. Scientists today are investigating how these tiny light-emitting particles, known as quantum dots, might be used to make medical dyes capable of penetrating individual cells, thus allowing researchers to monitor how cancer metastasizes in vivo, for instance. Researchers are also developing new lasers and computational devices using quantum dots.

“To actually win this is just beyond belief,” says Brus, who shares the award with Sumio Iijima, a Japanese physicist who discovered carbon nanotubes. “I’m not a genius. We all struggle to do science and sometimes you’re at the right place at the right time and you can act on the opportunity.”

Thomas Jessell won the neuroscience award for demonstrating how spinal column cells grow into different types of neurons. Jessell deciphered part of the genetic code that tells these nerve cells to differentiate from one another and to form neuronal circuits that communicate with specific muscles. His research has identified principles of neuronal development that provide clues for treating autism and schizophrenia.

Winning the Kavli Prize “gives one encouragement in those dark hours when things don’t seem quite as tractable,” says Jessell, who shares the neuroscience prize with Pasko Rakic of Yale University and Sten Grillner of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. “One is constantly inspired by small challenges, to get to the next and to overcome the next hurdle. I think the recognition gives you a sense of resilience.”


  Ben Jealous ’94CC
Ben Jealous ’94CC becomes youngest-ever NAACP president

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is at a crossroads. Its aging membership has gradually shrunk from a half million to 300,000 and its dwindling resources forced the layoff of nearly one third of its staff this year. Some people have questioned whether the NAACP is relevant four decades after the civil rights era.
This country’s oldest civil rights organization recently turned to Benjamin Todd Jealous ’94CC to provide a new vision. Jealous, a 35-year-old journalist and social activist, was elected the 17th president of the NAACP in May after a yearlong search. He’ll take over in September.

A native Californian, Jealous began his career as a reporter for a black newspaper in Mississippi, the Jackson Advocate, quickly rising to become executive director of a publishing association that represents 200 black-owned papers. He then joined Amnesty International to direct its U.S. human rights program, aiding a successful lobbying campaign for federal legislation against prison rape. Since 2005, he’s been president of the Rosenberg Foundation, a San Francisco–based nonprofit that advocates for immigrants and the poor.

Jealous was picked to lead the NAACP in part for his connections to new grassroots organizations that use the Internet to mobilize activists. “The NAACP needs to work with other organizations, especially some of the younger people doing things like blogging,” NAACP search committee member and historian Mary Frances Berry told National Public Radio recently. “He persuaded the search committee that he also has connections in fundraising circles.”
Jealous, who earned a bachelor’s degree in political science at Columbia and attended Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, wants the NAACP to improve public awareness of pernicious forms of discrimination by funding academic research and by improving its own online presence.

“A white man with a criminal record today has an easier time getting a job than a black man with no record at all,” he told NPR recently. “And it’s much easier for a white construction worker to get a loan than a black professional. . . . We as black people know that there’s still a need for the NAACP. We need to really make that case forcefully. We need to research it and document it. We need to tell that story to the world — both old school, by knocking on doors, and new school, by landing in their Hotmail and Gmail box.”

—Marguerite Lamb

Alexander Hamilton’s final home got a lift through Harlem on June 7.  
There goes the neighborhood

Alexander Hamilton’s house has a new home. The National Park Service moved Hamilton Grange, where the first secretary of the treasury resided the two years before his death in 1804, from its previous location on Convent Avenue to St. Nicholas Park in Harlem. The house was lifted nearly 40 feet in the air to clear the portico of neighboring St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. Workers then took six hours to roll the 298-ton house one block west and one block south to the park at 141st Street, a better reflection of the structure’s once-rural setting. The Grange is now being renovated and will reopen as a museum next year.

Hamilton Grange was built in 1802, when Upper Manhattan was farmland, on a promontory that overlooked the Hudson and the East Rivers. Hamilton 1778KC, a Columbia trustee, had a long trip from his country estate to visit his alma mater, then located near City Hall.

Watch video highlights at

—Cristina Najarro ’10CC

  Engineering graduates waved tools symbolic
of their trade May 21.
Goin’ out with a bang

Columbia bestowed almost 11,000 degrees this year, which marked the 250th anniversary of its first Commencement exercises. Back in 1758, King’s College graduated seven men at St. George’s Chapel in Lower Manhattan.

In this year’s Commencement address, President Lee C. Bollinger told graduates to put their intellectual sophistication to use solving real-world problems and to not become too frustrated by public officials and others who would seem to oversimplify issues. “The clichéd critique at the ‘shallowness’ of public debate too often is an excuse to remain on the sidelines,” Bollinger said. “Standing up for our beliefs provides us with the raw material for a life in reflection. And it makes us feel and be part of our time.”


Congressman Charles Rangel, at right, greets Evelyn Roman-Lazan, director for K–12 programs at Columbia’s engineering school, at a June 30 event celebrating the University’s new partnership with Harlem public schools. With them are Columbia administrators Jack McGourty, at left, and Ted Gershon.  
Harlem schools get boost in math, science

Teachers College received a $5 million grant from the General Electric Foundation this summer to help improve Harlem’s public schools. The grant is part of a recent $29 million GE Foundation gift to New York City schools, the largest-ever single corporate contribution to the school system.

Teachers College, an affiliate of Columbia University, will form partnerships with about 10 Harlem schools to provide their teachers training in science and mathematics, incorporate technology in their curricula, and create after-school programs. The partnership ultimately will expand to include more subject areas and additional schools. Also participating is Columbia’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, which runs its own science education programs in Harlem schools.

Renee Belton, principal of the James McCune Smith School, or Community School 200, says the new initiative will help teachers who have shied away from teaching math because of a lack of training. “When the teachers have that understanding, the students are going to do better as well,” she says.

Peter L. McFarlane ’00TC, principal of the Hugo Newman College Preparatory School, or PS/IS 180, said the partnership will help “every aspect of my school, from teacher recruitment and retention to comprehensive professional development to the alignment of curriculum to state and national standards. It also enables the principal to draw on the best research when he’s thinking about how to improve the school.”

The GE grant is part of a national program the corporation has launched in six cities to improve math and science education. GE employees intend to visit schools to spark interest in the subjects.


  Dozens turned out to try traditional Brazilian dance at Low Plaza June 13.

Dance, Dance, Dance

For three evenings this summer, the Low Plaza turned into a giant, open-to-the-public dance floor. Samba from Brazil, bomba from Puerto Rico, and hip-hop from the South Bronx were the dances du jour, drawing students and neighbors of all ages. Sponsored in part by the Columbia Alumni Association, the series of events, called “Shall We Dance,” is in its second year, and includes dance instruction and screenings of dance documentaries.

"Shall We Dance" is the brainchild of Lamar Lovelace, project coordinator with Columbia’s Office of Government and Community Affairs, and is supported by the Columbia School of Continuing Education Summer High School Program, The Arts Initiative at Columbia University, the Dance Film Association, Columbia Alumni Association, Citibank, Fairway, and the Columbia School of the Arts

—Paul Hond

From left, Alan Alda, Muppet Bunsen Honeydew, and Columbia physicist Brian Greene at the opening
of the World Science Festival at Columbia.
Feast of knowledge

Columbia physicist Brian Greene and his wife, Tracy Day, a producer of TV documentaries, spearheaded New York City’s first annual World Science Festival, which took place from May 28 through June 1. Dozens of exhibitions, public debates, and street fairs were planned in locations from Harlem to Greenwich Village. The celebration of scientific discovery kicked off at Columbia with a speech by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a summit of more than 125 science and business leaders who discussed how scientific discoveries will shape tomorrow’s world.

Alternative energy, neurobiology, and quantum physics all came to life in events designed to be accessible and inspirational to people of all ages. “To make informed decisions, we need a general public that’s not put off by science,” says Greene. “Rather, the public needs to be excited by science and prepared to engage with its implications for the future. Through the World Science Festival, New York can help lead the way in sparking a new public attitude toward science.”


  Bill Grueskin
Reporting in the future

The journalism school is making a major push to support its new media curriculum.

In June, the school received a $5 million pledge from the philanthropic foundation of Leonard Tow ’60GSAS to create a new center for online journalism. The same month, the school lured Bill Grueskin, former deputy managing editor of the Wall Street Journal and an expert on digital journalism, away from the newspaper to serve as dean of academic affairs. Grueskin will start here September 1.

The $5 million gift from the Tow Foundation is contingent on the journalism school raising an additional $10 million for a new center. School officials say the center will shape the curriculum of the entire school, helping train even print journalism students in video, audio, and other multimedia reporting tools.

The center will also train journalists to interact with their audience in new ways, such as by facilitating online discussions or by incorporating dispatches from citizens in their coverage. The J-school will hire two full-time faculty members to lead the center once it’s fully funded.

“The news industry is changing rapidly, and not altogether for the better in terms of the economic issues,” says Grueskin, who will help oversee the center. “But the overall appetite for journalism is in many ways increasing online, and that presents opportunities. There’s no longer a hurdle to getting published because of the Internet, so young journalists who find a unique topic to cover can reach millions of people online and really make a name for themselves.”


Alumni say they value access to Columbia libraries, like the East Asian Library in Kent Hall, seen above.  
The CAA is listening

Career services, library resources, and access to Columbia’s intellectual life top the list of what Columbia alumni are seeking from their affiliation to the University. That’s according to a study commissioned by the Columbia Alumni Association.

Nearly 75,000 Columbia alumni were contacted for the CAA study, which was designed to find out how alumni feel about their Columbia experience—as students and as graduates—and what their top priorities are. The study consisted of 10 focus groups in New York, Los Angeles, and Atlanta and an online survey. More than 4,000 Columbia alumni participated in the survey. 

Career services emerged as a clear top priority. Approximately 93 percent of survey respondents agree that their Columbia education helped them prepare for a career, but more because of the prestige of their degree than because of career ser-vices offered by the University or by their school. Also, alumni of all ages want to use Columbia’s libraries either online or in person and to have access to online course materials.

Alumni have an appetite for news about the University and roughly three-quarters of those surveyed think they are getting the right amount of e-mail from Columbia. Two-thirds of alumni give overall positive ratings to Columbia and to their primary school for serving their needs and interests as graduates, which University officials and alumni leaders say leaves room for improvement.

The study was conducted over the winter by Global Strategy Group (GSG), led by Jefrey Pollock ’97SIPA. ESI Design principal Edwin Schlossberg ’67CC, ‘71GSAS helped set the framework for the study.

According to Dan Libby ’82SEAS, ’84SEAS, chair of the CAA communications committee that initiated the project, “Since the CAA’s founding in 2005, we’ve worked with staff to find new ways to help alumni connect with one another and with the University. This survey gives us a reality check from Columbia graduates of all ages and from all schools.”

The CAA and the GSG team shared survey results in the spring with deans and alumni relations offices in every Columbia school. The results are helping to shape priorities for CAA programs and communications, most notably plans for a redesigned alumni association Web site,, scheduled for launch in 2009.

—Tracy Quinn


In brief

Hot-spot hunter

Where’s a cool place to hang out? A new service called Citysense can tell you. Invented by Columbia computer scientist Tony Jebera and MIT’s Alex Pentland, Citysense analyzes data from millions of cell phones and personal-planning devices to track in real time where large numbers of people are congregating. It can display the results on an iPhone or BlackBerry, suggesting where nearby there’s a packed nightclub, for instance. The inventors say no one’s privacy is violated because the system displays only aggregate data, not information that could identify individuals. The service is free by logging onto and is available for San Francisco and Chicago, with more cities to be rolled out soon.

Ax-grinders anonymous

Columbia journalism students conducted a study for the New York Times recently to see if the paper is using anonymous sources more responsibly than in the past. The Times set tougher standards for anonymous sourcing after the 2003 Jayson Blair fabrication scandal, requiring that reporters explain to readers why unnamed sources aren’t identified.

Students under the direction of professor Dick Wald found that the number of articles using unnamed sources fell by half since the new standards were put in place, but that today 80 percent of the time anonymous sources are used no adequate reason is provided. A typical explanation is “he was not authorized to speak.”

Clark Hoyt, the Times’s ombudsman who commissioned the study, wrote in his June 8 column that Times editors now are pushing reporters harder to include information that might help readers gauge the reliability of mystery interviewees.

Stem cells save tot

A stem cell treatment developed at Columbia Medical Center might have saved the life of a two-year-old New Jersey boy with a debilitating condition called recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (RDEB). The genetic disorder can make skin so delicate that its victims must be constantly wrapped in bandages; the airways and organs also are prone to infection.

Columbia dermatologist and geneticist Angela M. Christiano discovered that stem cells found in bone marrow help correct the biochemical defect that causes RDEB. Her laboratory performed genetic tests on the boy’s family to determine the exact molecular basis for their strand of RDEB. Physicians at the University of Minnesota gave the boy a bone marrow transplant last fall and say that his quality of life has since improved dramatically. Christiano continues to study the genetic basis of RDEB, hoping to find a cure.

Columbia in a nutshell

Semiannual reports that universities produce to describe their own progress used to be thick volumes distributed only to key administrators and alumni leaders. This year, Columbia president Lee C. Bollinger released a five-year report for all to see on Columbia’s home site. It provides a succinct overview of Bollinger’s priorities: global awareness, connectedness with New York City, student and faculty diversity, and interdisciplinary science research among them. Read the report at

Painful silence

A three-year study of 1300 teenagers in New York City has found that 16 percent experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives, far more than the national average of 7 to 10 percent. Columbia epidemiologist Leslie Davidson conducted the study with extensive cooperation from the public school system. Eighty-nine percent of the victims said they knew the person who assaulted them and only 41 percent told anybody about it. Of the victims who told someone, just 24 percent told a teacher, guidance counselor, or health professional. Davidson says the findings highlight the need for better education and counseling related to sexual violence.

This magazine is a winner

Columbia magazine won four awards in the annual competition of the Council for Advancement and Support of
Education (CASE) recently.

Paul Hond, Columbia magazine’s senior writer, earned separate silver medals in the “best articles” category for “Fighting Words,” his Winter 2006–07 piece about freedom of expression on campus, and for “Working Skiffs,” his Summer 2007 profile on boatbuilder Joe Youcha ’86CC.

The magazine also won two silver medals for design: one for Mark Steele’s illustrations of a book chapter by Columbia neurologist Oliver Sacks in the Fall 2007 issue, the other for illustrations by Darren Gygi that accompanied professor Gary Sick’s commentary on Iran in the Spring 2007 issue.

MBA hat trick

A joint MBA program between Columbia Business School and London Business School expanded this year to include the University of Hong Kong. The program, EMBA-Global Asia, is designed primarily for executives and managers in Asia who seek advanced training in both Western and Eastern business methods. Participants in the 20-month program receive instruction in Hong Kong, London, and New York, and finish with a degree awarded jointly by all three schools.