Lee C. Bollinger
Columbia University inaugurated Lee C. Bollinger as its 19th president on October 3rd in a day-long celebration highlighting the university's diversity and tradition of commitment to academic excellence. During the Investiture Ceremony on Low Plaza, U.N. Secretary Kofi Annan praised the new President's work on behalf of First Amendment rights, former Mayor David Dinkins, representing Congressman Charles Rangel, lauded his commitment to diversity in the classroom; and Mayor Michael Bloomberg declared October 3, 2002, Lee C. Bollinger Day in New York City.
In his address, President Bollinger reflected on the history, legacy and enormous contributions of Columbia, the role of a great university in society and its responsibility to address the great issues of our time.
"Columbia is the quintessential great urban university," President Bollinger said. "It is international in perspective, in consciousness, in our interests and our engagements as students, teachers and scholars. Deep down Columbia possesses naturally the sense of itself as a citizen of the world." Bollinger said how crucial it is for Columbia to retain its distinctive academic character with this enhanced involvement with the outside world.
President Bollinger also discussed his vision for Columbia's future and its leadership role in New York City, its partnership role with the surrounding communities and its place as a citizen of the world.
"We share a life with our neighbors and we have great responsibility to them. For New York City, Columbia University is immensely important," said President Bollinger, noting the University's economic contributions to the City and neighborhoods surrounding campus. "But above all else, the University benefits enormously by living amidst such creative and resilient communities," he added.
He also reasserted the value of affirmative action in college admissions.
More than 3,000 people attended the colorful outdoor inauguration festivities, including faculty, staff, students, alumni and residents from the surrounding communities and New York City.
Formerly President of the University of Michigan and Provost of Dartmouth College, President Bollinger is a renowned legal scholar, with expertise in free speech and the First Amendment. He is an alumnus of Columbia's Law School, where he is also a professor. He became president of Columbia on June 1.
Inauguration day began early for President Bollinger, as he led dozens of students and faculty in a 5K Fun Run that stepped off from Grant's Tomb, followed by a ceremonial robing in the Butler Library. After a full-scale academic procession, the Investiture Ceremony took place on Low Plaza. The master of ceremonies was Eric Kandel, a Columbia professor and Nobel Laureate.
David Stern, chairman of the Trustees of Columbia University and Commissioner of the National Basketball Association, introduced Secretary-General Annan, Mayor Bloomberg and former Mayor Dinkins, each of whom offered his greetings to the new President.
Secretary Annan, who called the United Nations and Columbia "sister institutions," in his remarks, also acknowledged President Bollinger's lifelong crusade in support of the First Amendment. The Secretary General said that his commitment to that cause makes President Bollinger "a natural and powerful ally with the U.N. to secure human rights everywhere."
Mr. Dinkins expressed his delight that President Bollinger would "bring [his] passion and compassion to Columbia University." In his remarks, Mayor Bloomberg underscored the value of Columbia's location in and relationship with New York City. "Columbia University has taken full advantage of its location in the world's most exciting and dynamic city," he said. "And the city has always shared the fruits and glory of Columbia's success."
Chairman Stern also presented a copy of the 248-year-old institution's historic charter, ceremonial keys and the President's Chair, once owned by Benjamin Franklin, to President Bollinger. The keys symbolize the transfer of authority over the 21,000-student Ivy League School.
The Investiture was followed by a New York-style street fair at South Field that offered guests and the campus community lunch from a variety of venues, including a few restaurants from Morningside Heights and Harlem.
The program continued with four interdisciplinary academic symposia highlighting Columbia's academic excellence. Nobel laureates Eric Kandel (Medicine, 2000) and Joseph Stiglitz (Economics, 2001) and leading scholars in the sciences, humanities, law, medicine and the arts, addressed critical issues in society and scholarship, including "Perception, Memory and Art," "Ethics and Democracy," "The 21st Century City" and "Global Perspectives."
Later in the evening, President Bollinger was introduced to a talented Columbia student body during a student celebration on Low Plaza, which featured performances by theater troupes, vocal groups, poets and writers, martial arts experts and dancers.