Columbia honored the late Rev. Dr. M. Moran Weston II -- a native New Yorker and founder of the largest African American–owned bank in the United States, Carver Federal Savings Bank -- with the dedication of the plaza in front of John Jay in his name on Oct. 26.
A graduate of Columbia College class of 1930, Weston was appointed the University's first African American trustee in 1969 and served in that capacity until 1981, when he was designated a trustee emeritus. He was a tireless advocate for Columbia and the larger Harlem community; his dedication inspired the Black Students Organization and other student groups to campaign for a space named in his honor.
Speakers at the dedication ceremony included the Rev. Dr. James Forbes, senior minister of The Riverside Church; Lee C. Bollinger, president of Columbia University; Austin E. Quigley, dean of Columbia College; Jessica Buchanan, president of CU Black Students Organization; Evan Davis, former University trustee; and Greg Weston, son of Moran Weston.
All the speakers commented on Weston's selflessness and unflappable optimism. President Bollinger noted that Weston once told a New York Times reporter, "I do nothing. I cause things to happen. If I have a gift, it is to encourage people that they can do the impossible." Bollinger also remarked that "to walk around our campus is to trace his influence."
Weston's accomplishments were not limited to his guidance as a University trustee. His work spanned several sectors and included a wide range of successful efforts to improve the community. He served as rector of St. Philip's Episcopal Church in Harlem, and his banking experience alerted him to the growing need for affordable housing. Weston founded six nonprofit housing development corporations that have provided thousands of homes for low-income families. One of the most notable is Weston United Community Renewal, a grass-roots social service organization that provides housing, mental health services and other assistance to residents of Harlem, Washington Heights and East Harlem. Weston United serves more than 500 people, employs 133 and manages a budget of almost $10 million.
His leadership was recognized by a number of organizations, including the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Mount Sinai Medical School and Hospital, the Greater Harlem Nursing Home and CARE. In 1981, the Archbishop of Canterbury conferred upon Weston the St. Augustine's Cross in recognition of his service. His devotion to shaping urban and public policy led Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs to name an annual lecture in his honor.
A benediction was performed by the Rev. Canon Frederick Williams, rector of Church of the Intercession.