On May 16, with picture-perfect early-morning weather, the 1,172 members of the Class of 2017 gathered on South Lawn for the 259th Columbia College Class Day. The newest members of the Columbia College Alumni Association (CCAA) were cheered on by family, friends, alumni, faculty and administrators.
The more than 100 participants in the annual Alumni Parade of Classes — a tradition in which alumni march from Butler to the stage, carrying their class banners — began the day with a gourmet breakfast in John Jay. Bob Costa CC’67, BUS’69 welcomed the marchers and later presented each with a 2017 commemorative Class Day pin featuring Rodin’s The Thinker.
In her keynote remarks, Class Day speaker Sheena Wright CC’90, LAW’94, president and CEO of United Way of New York City, compelled the newest alumni to “drive change in the world.” Wright reflected on her time at Columbia, noting how much has changed and how much work must be done. “On the other side of this day, the stakes are much higher … Columbia Class of 2017, you have enormous power and influence, and you need to use it well.” (More on Wright's keynote speech)
The graduates were welcomed into the CCAA by its president, Doug Wolf CC’88, who reminded them that their connection to the College community continues well beyond graduation. Wolf urged the newly minted alumni to be involved, much as they were as students, and “to teach us where to go as an organization … and energize Columbia with your newfound knowledge.”
Dean James J. Valentini thanked the graduates for “all that you have taught us” and focused on what they can achieve by working together. “You each have contributed to the undergraduate experience of one another to create a collective value that goes well beyond a sum of your individual contributions. That synergy is what multiplies the value of Columbia College — the 4,500 students, 1,000 faculty members, 300 staff members and 50,000 alumni.” The dean called the Class of 2017 “a 10,” as the numbers of 2017 add up to 10, and added that by working together, “you might be an ‘11’ or a ‘12,’ not just a ‘10’ — because that synergy scale goes above and beyond ‘10.’”
The program continued with remarks from President Lee C. Bollinger, who declared the College experience to be “the very, very best of what a liberal arts education is and can do.” He affirmed his confidence in the Core Curriculum and encouraged the Class of 2017 — and national leaders — to lean on the values of the lessons learned within. “I have never admired the liberal arts curriculum, and especially ours … more than I do at this moment … I hope you insist upon its relevance in whatever you do in the world.”
The program also featured remarks from Senior Class President Jordana Narin CC’17 and valedictorian Michael Abolafia CC’17 and culminated with a rousing rendition of Roar, Lion, Roar, followed by Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York and Jay-Z’s Empire State of Mind, featuring Alicia Keys, during the recessional.