Sydney S. Gross
Director of Communications
Celebrating his 14 years of service as Dean of Columbia College, Austin Quigley was honored on November 13, when the Columbia College Alumni Association presented him with the 2008 Alexander Hamilton Medal at the American Museum of Natural History.
The dinner, attended by almost 700 alumni, students, faculty, family members and friends, also served as a fundraiser for The Columbia Campaign for Undergraduate Education, which funds financial aid, faculty support and student services. University Trustee Chair Bill Campbell ‘62 announced at the dinner that the event had raised more than $2 million.
Held in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, the dinner, which was preceded by a cocktail hour in the main dinosaur hall, was highlighted by 10 speakers who took the podium to praise Quigley’s relationship with students, the evolution of the College during his tenure and his enduring friendship with many in the Columbia community. Attendees also were treated to a video tribute, in which many members of the College community spoke of Quigley’s vital role in getting the College to where it is today.
Claire Shipman ‘86 was mistress of ceremonies, recognizing Tussi and John Kluge ‘37, honorary chairs. Kluge made a moving speech whereby he noted that Quigley was "much more than a dean … he befriended every student in the school … he gave himself."
Geoffrey J. Colvin ‘74, P’08, P’10, president of the Columbia College Alumni Association, praised the selection committee for choosing Quigley and introduced Kluge Scholar Sarracina Littlebird ‘09. After talking about Quigley’s connection to students, Littlebird explained the wonderful opportunities that opened to her as a Kluge Scholar.
Lisa Landau Carnoy ‘89 spoke about the evolution of the College since it began admitting women in 1983 and its increased selectivity under Quigley. Speaking for the faculty, Zora Neale Hurston Professor of English and Comparative Literature and jazz expert Robert G. O’Meally praised the Core Curriculum and Quigley’s devotion to it, calling him "the Duke Ellington of deans."
Lisa ‘97 TC and Richard Witten ‘75, P’10 announced the establishment of the $50 million Austin E. Quigley Endowment for Student Success, more than half of which has been raised to focus on career education and advising. Cheryl ‘81 Barnard and Philip Milstein ‘71, P’09, P’10 toasted Quigley and presented him with a commemorative sculpture of the Scholar’s Lion, created especially for the occasion by Greg Wyatt ‘71, who also sculpted the original. Witten and Milstein are vice-chairs of the University Board of Trustees.
After President Lee C. Bollinger spoke of Quigley’s incredible contributions to the College, he and Colvin presented the dean with the medal.
Born in Northumbria, near the English border with Scotland, Quigley earned his bachelor’s in English literature from Nottingham University, his master’s in linguistics at Birmingham University and his Ph.D. in English and comparative literature and literary theory at UC Santa Cruz. Before coming to Columbia in 1990, Quigley taught at the University of Massachusetts and the University of Virginia, where he chaired the English department. He also has taught at the University of Geneva, the University of Konstanz and the University of Nottingham. At Columbia, Quigley established the undergraduate major in drama and theatre arts, revived the doctoral program in theatre and helped reinvigorate the M.F.A. program in theater at the School of the Arts. He served for three years as chair of the Lionel Trilling Seminar series and has continued to teach and write during his term as dean.
In May, Quigley announced his decision to step down in July 2009 after 14 years as Dean of the College, longer than all but one of those who preceded him - Herbert E. Hawkes served as dean from 1918-1943. Quigley will continue to teach and do research as the Brander Matthews Professor of Dramatic Literature and also will serve as special adviser to the president for undergraduate education after stepping down from the deanship.
Ethan Rouen ‘04J and Lisa Palladino