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Sept. 12, 2007

Columbia Receives $5M Pledge from Leonard and Louise Riggio

Leonard and Louise Riggio have pledged $5 million in support of professorships, graduate fellowships, and undergraduate programs in the Department of Art History and Archaeology.

Louise and Leonard Riggio
Louise and Leonard Riggio

The gift, one of the largest ever to art history at Columbia, dedicates $3 million in support of a permanent endowment for two professorships in art history—one in African Art and a second to be assigned at the department’s discretion. Of the remaining $2 million, half will underwrite graduate fellowships and half will provide support to undergraduates for summer internships, thesis research, and travel, as well as lectures, symposia, and publications to benefit all students.

“Thanks to the Riggio family’s generosity and commitment to education at Columbia, we will now offer greater support to faculty and students searching for a deeper understanding of art history,” said President Lee C. Bollinger. “Creative expression enlivens everything we do here, and we take great delight in helping those who want to explore the vast history of the arts.”

The gift is noteworthy both in its scope—its simultaneous support of faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates—and by the fact it is inspired by the interests of the Riggios’ daughter, Stephanie, who graduated from Columbia College in 2006 with a degree in art history.

“Our gift recognizes the depth and quality of Columbia’s excellent program in art history, as well as our family’s desire to become part of this important legacy,” said Leonard Riggio.

Mr. Riggio is the chairman of Barnes & Noble, Inc., the world's largest bookseller.  The Riggios have a lengthy record in support of the arts, as funders of Dia:Beacon, one of the world's most highly respected contemporary art museums, and other artistic, educational, and charitable institutions.

The $3 million donated in support of the two chairs is being matched as part of the Lenfest Challenge, a fund established in September 2006 by University Trustee Gerry Lenfest LW’58 to spur the endowment of 25 chairs in the Arts and Sciences.

Professor Zoë Strother will hold the Riggio Professorship in African Art beginning this fall. The holder of the second chair, the Riggio Professorship in Art History, will be determined by the Department of Art History and Archaeology at a future time.

“The Department of Art History and Archaeology has been greatly strengthened by the Riggios’ generosity and foresight,” says department chair Robert E. Harrist, Jr. “The new professorship in African Art takes its place among a constellation of other professorships in non-Western art that ensure Columbia’s continuing preeminence in these fields.”

Long prominent within the University, Columbia’s Department of Art History and Archaeology is also one of the leading such departments in the world. For decades its faculty has played a major role in producing the foundational ideas and texts in the history of art and architecture, and their scholarship continues to define new directions in the discipline. The department trains faculty for the nation’s colleges and universities and curators for its museums. Faculty and graduate students also play key roles in undergraduate teaching through the department’s popular major as well as the Arts Humanities course taken by all Columbia College students as part of the renowned Core Curriculum.