Professors Breslow, Foner, Jackson To Receive Alexander Hamilton Medal

Three distinguished faculty members who have dedicated their careers to research, scholarship and educating Columbia College students — University Professor Ronald Breslow, the DeWitt Clinton Professor of History Eric Foner ’63, GSAS’69 and the Jacques Barzun Professor in History and the Social Sciences Kenneth T. Jackson — will each be presented an Alexander Hamilton Medal on Thursday, November 17, at the Alexander Hamilton Award Dinner in Low Rotunda.

The medal, named in honor of one of our nation’s founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton (Class of 1778), is the highest honor awarded to a member of the College community for distinguished service to the College and accomplishment in any field of endeavor. It is presented by the Columbia College Alumni Association, Dean James J. Valentini and President Lee C. Bollinger. Proceeds from the black-tie dinner directly benefit College students by supporting the priorities of the College, including the Core Curriculum and financial aid.

Ronald Breslow

Ronald Breslow

Breslow heads a research group at Columbia that is pursuing studies in several different areas, including trying to prepare artificial enzymes that can imitate the function of natural enzymes. He has received more than 75 national and international awards for his research, teaching and professional roles including the U.S. National Medal of Science, a Great Teacher Award, the Mark Van Doren Award for Teaching and the Pupin Medal. Breslow discovered the chemical mechanism used by Vitamin B1 in biology, the fundamental system for special stability in molecules with magic numbers of pi electrons, and the phenomenon of special instability in molecules with other special numbers of electrons, for which he coined the word “antiaromaticity.” He also created molecules with anti-cancer properties now in human use.

Breslow also played a key role in the evolution of the College, heading a committee in the early 1980s that studied the feasibility of coeducation. He earned an A.B. in 1952, A.M. in 1954 and Ph.D. in 1956, all from Harvard, and has taught at Columbia since 1956.

Eric Foner ’63, GSAS’69

Eric Foner ’63, GSAS’69

DANIELLA ZALCMAN ’09

Foner, who specializes in the Civil War and Reconstruction, slavery and 19th-century America, is one of only two people to serve as president of the Organization of American Historians, American Historical Association and Society of American Historians. He has been the curator of several museum exhibitions, including the prize-winning “A House Divided: America in the Age of Lincoln,” at the Chicago Historical Society. His book The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery won the Pulitzer, Bancroft and Lincoln prizes for 2011. His latest book is Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad.

After graduating from the College, Foner was a Kellett Fellow who received a second B.A. from Oxford’s Oriel College in 1965 before returning to Columbia for a Ph.D. He has received a John Jay Award for distinguished professional achievement, a Great Teacher Award, a Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching, the Lionel Trilling Book Award and the Mark Van Doren Award for Teaching. Foner began teaching at Columbia in 1969 and following a stint at CCNY returned in 1982.

Kenneth T. Jackson

Kenneth T. Jackson

Jackson is a noted urban historian, a preeminent authority on New York City and the author of several books including Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States and The Encyclopedia of New York City. He is the director of the Herbert H. Lehman Center for American History at Columbia, where he has taught courses in urban, social and military history. He is perhaps best known for his class “The History of the City of New York,” which includes numerous field trips and a nighttime bicycle ride from Morningside Heights through Manhattan to Brooklyn.

Jackson graduated from Memphis in 1961 and earned an M.A. in 1963 and a Ph.D. in 1966, both from Chicago. After serving in the Air Force, he joined the Columbia faculty in 1968 and has taught here ever since while also lecturing at hundreds of colleges, universities, civic groups and historical societies around the world. He has received the Mark Van Doren Award for Teaching and a Great Teacher Award and was president of the Urban History Association, the Society of American Historians, the Organization of American Historians and the New-York Historical Society.

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