When Columbia held its first graduation in 1758, seven men received their bachelor’s degrees. Now, more than 14,000 graduates of Columbia’s 18 schools and affiliates will earn their degrees on May 21. They include some 2,000 international students from over 100 countries, including Kazakhstan, Pakistan and Mongolia. The oldest graduate is a 74-year-old physician getting a master’s degree in nutrition. The youngest, at 19, earned a master’s in journalism. Among the graduates across the University are 145 military veterans.
According to tradition, President Lee C. Bollinger will deliver the Commencement address, but other distinguished speakers will headline individual schools’ class days throughout the week. Former national security adviser Thomas E. Donilon speaks at the School of International and Public Affairs. Actor and Capote screenwriter Dan Futterman (CC’89) gives the keynote address for Columbia College. And Roberta A. Kaplan (LAW’91), who represented Edith Windsor in her successful challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, appears at the Law School graduation.
The University will confer nine honorary degrees, including its Academic Medal for Excellence, which is awarded to an alumnus under the age of 45. The ceremony will also honor 10 alumni medalists for service to the University and recognize five professors with Presidential Awards for excellence in teaching. Around noon, graduates will exit to Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York and Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ Empire State of Mind. And later that day, from dusk to just after midnight, the top of New York’s Empire State Building will be lit in blue and white to honor Columbia’s graduates.