WITHIN THE FAMILY
It’s Events Season at Columbia
By Alex Sachare '71
If it’s true that to everything there is a season, then we’re
in the middle of events season at Columbia.
The spring semester has been replete with celebrations involving
various members of the Columbia family. These range from the John
Jay Awards Dinner honoring outstanding alumni — and this year
a noteworthy parent — to the Lionel Trilling and Mark Van
Doren Awards for faculty, to the festive Senior Dinner under a huge
tent on South Field, all culminating in May with the Baccalaureate
Service, the Academic Awards and Prizes Ceremony, Class Day and
the biggest celebration of all, Commencement.
And there have been many more. Columbia College Women marked 20
years of coeducation at the College by honoring 10 alumnae in higher
education with its Alumna Achievement Award. The Athletics Department
held its annual Varsity “C” dinner recognizing student-athletes
as well as a Celebration of Women in Athletics marking the 20th
anniversary of the Columbia-Barnard Athletic Consortium. The Varsity Show celebrated its 110th anniversary as the oldest performing group
on campus with this year’s show (featuring an appearance by
Dean Austin Quigley) plus an award to playwright Terrence McNally
’60. Various affinity groups held events honoring the contributions
of outstanding alumni, and other organizations and clubs joined
in with additional events.
For alumni, the biggest event comes shortly after the end of the
semester — Reunion Weekend, which this year will be held June
3–6. While most of the weekend is geared toward classes ending
in 4 and 9, all young alumni (those who graduated since 1989) are
invited to an Alumni Dance Party at the Hammerstein Ballroom on
Friday, June 4.
One of my favorite events took place on campus on April 3. Dean’s
Day gives alumni and parents a chance to return to campus and become
students for a day by sampling from among 15 lectures by distinguished
faculty. It’s not a fund-raising event; the nominal fee, $25
this year and another $25 for a nice lunch in Low Library, only
comes close to covering expenses. The idea is to reconnect alumni
with their campus experience and to give parents a taste of what
their kids are getting at Columbia, and this year more than 700,
a record number, participated. Who knows how many alumni sat in
the same seats they had occupied years before, or how many parents
sat where their children had sat only days earlier?
Dean’s Day can leave indelible memories. I never took a course
with Jim Shenton ’49 when I was an undergraduate, but I’ll
always be thankful for the hour I spent in 614 Schermerhorn a few
years ago, when the legendary history professor regaled a full room
with the story of his days as a young medic entering the Nazi concentration
camps with the liberation forces.
My favorite lecture this year was delivered by Duncan J. Watts,
a young associate professor of sociology. His topic was “Six
Degrees of Separation: The Science of a Connected Age,” and
his talk about the small world phenomenon had the audience in the
Roone Arledge Cinema enthralled.
Adding to the enjoyment of this year’s Dean’s Day was
the unveiling of the latest campus landmark, Scholars’ Lion,
which stands on the north campus between Low Library and Havemeyer
Hall. As a member of the Class of 1971, this was especially meaningful
for me, as it was sculpted by an esteemed classmate, Greg Wyatt
’71, and numerous classmates (led by trustee Mark Kingdon
’71) were instrumental in its funding.
Check out Scholars’ Lion next time you’re
on campus. And if you’ve never attended Dean’s Day,
why not make a note to do so next year?