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250th Anniversary Celebration Ends with Fanfare

What a year it was.

From academic symposia featuring Nobel Laureates to history lectures that drew more than 1,000 to Low Library, from a community festival for Columbia's neighbors to the Homecoming festivities that bracketed the year, the Columbia 250 celebration offered something for everyone.

University officials traveled far and wide to mark the anniversary with alumni around the world. President Lee C. Bollinger attended enthusiastic gatherings in Asia and Europe, while American graduates from Boston to Los Angeles convened for showings of Columbia: A Celebration, the personal documentary by filmmaker Ric Burns, CC'78, GSAS'83. The film also aired on Channel 13 here in New York.

C250's lasting legacy includes Columbia-themed books -- among them the general history of the University, Stand, Columbia, by Barnard History Professor Robert McCaughey -- as well as an online archive of reminiscences by alumni and renovated subway stations. And it all culminated in a lively closing weekend before formally concluding with a visit from a descendant of the man who signed the University's original charter.

The weekend began with "Re:NEW Frontiers in Creativity" and "The 21 st Century City and Its Values," the final two symposia that have now joined the previous five archived on the C250 Web site.

On Friday, Oct. 1, Jonah Raskin, CC'63, GS'64 and author of American Scream: Allen Ginsberg's Howl and the Making of the Beat Generation, lectured at the School of Journalism on Allen Ginsberg's time at Columbia. Later that same night, the best minds of many Columbia generations crammed into the West End, on Broadway, to hear a lively recitation of Ginsberg's epic poem Howl. A capacity crowd of 580 was on hand to hear four readers including Raskin; Ann Douglas, Parr Professor of English and Comparative Literature; Greg Ford, CC'96; and Audra Noble, BC'05, bring the poem to life, giving attendees a taste of the 1950s beat scene. The event also featured a dozen student and alumni poets reading in the West End's downstairs room.

Even as Raskin lectured, the Columbia Marching Band led a pep rally for the football team that also featured a performance by the University Dance Team. Hundreds of students attended the event on Low Plaza, lending support to the gridders preparing for the following afternoon's game against rival Princeton. Almost 11,000 fans trekked to Baker Field on Saturday, where they enjoyed a hard-fought contest that, alas, saw the Lions fall just short in a 27-26 overtime loss.

The game's outcome did little to mar the festive spirit at the Baker Field complex. As at the C250 opening weekend, students, alumni and friends gathered for a grand gourmet barbecue, with a carnival's worth of diversion for the children on hand. Columbia graduates representing the University's various schools participated in the C250 Parade of Alumni, which marched into the stadium led by twelve of Columbia's Olympic athletes, including gold medalists Trent Dimas, GS'02, and Derek Adkins, CU's varsity track and field coach. Other notable participants were former Columbia president Michael Sovern; Henry King and his fellow C250 co-chair, Kenneth Jackson, Jacques Barzun Professor in History and the Social Sciences ; and Provost Emeritus Wm. Theodore de Bary. President Bollinger addressed the crowd at halftime, congratulating student-athletes named to all-Ivy League teams and thanking such contributors to the C250 celebration as McCaughey, Ashbel Green, Barnard History Professor Rosalind Rosenberg and documentarian Burns.

Eight days later, on Oct. 11, His Royal Highness Prince Andrew, the Duke of York and a direct descendant of George II, was on hand for the celebration's official close at a gala dinner in Low Library, where the original King's College charter was on display. Joining President Bollinger in making formal remarks Prince Andrew saluted Columbia for its success as a Marshall Centre of Excellence, in a nod to the Marshall and other scholarship programs that send American students to United Kingdom for graduate study. He also praised John Jay, KC 1764, and Alexander Hamilton, KC 1774-6, for establishing the foundation of the special relationship that the U.S. and U.K. have enjoyed for many decades. C250 Co-chair Henry King welcomed a crowd that included trustees, faculty members -- including former mayor David Dinkins, professor of professional practice -- and public officials such as Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields and British Consulate-General Sir Philip Thomas. University Trustee Marilyn Laurie offered toasts.

All told, organizers considered the weekend -- and the year as a whole -- to be a great success. "From the symposia to the football game to the reading of Howl at the West End, the events of closing weekend exemplified the diversity of programming over the course of the entire C250 celebration," said Ember Deitz Goldstein, COO of Columbia 250. "We're extremely pleased that so many people took part, not just over one weekend, but during the entire past year."

Deitz Goldstein also touched on the achievements of the C250 celebration overall. "The various events enabled Columbia to strengthen its connections with alumni from many different schools as well as members of the neighboring communities around our campuses," she said. "We also developed new models for collaborative relationships throughout the University, with faculty and staff members who in many cases had never worked together. These new partnerships are certain to bolster the University as it moves forward into its 251 st year."

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Published: Nov 3, 2004
Last modified: Jan 10, 2005

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