The Rites of Spring

After a long winter, spring is especially welcome this year.

a man holding a framed photo

Behringer’s keepsake, a daily reminder of his Columbia experience.


For the Columbia College Alumni Association, the season unofficially began with one of our signature events, the John Jay Awards Dinner, on March 7. The award recognizes College alumni for distinguished professional achievement and is one of the highest honors granted to College alumni.

This year, the College recognized five outstanding recipients: Eric Garcetti ’92, SIPA’93, mayor of Los Angeles; Sara Just ’88, PBS NewsHour executive producer and WETA SVP; Julie Jacobs Menin ’89, commissioner, NYC Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment; Robert P. Rooney ’89, CEO, Morgan Stanley International Plc., head of Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and head of technology; and Ron Simons ’82, BUS’89, four-time Tony Award-winning producer and actor. More than $1.1 million was raised for the John Jay National Scholars Program, which supports some of the College’s most exceptional students.

Spring also puts undergraduates in a celebratory mood, as they emerge from winter hibernation. For me, a favorite spring tradition was spending sunny afternoons on the Low Steps with friends. And if an “occasional” class was overlooked in favor of sunshine and laughs, I don’t think we were any worse off for it.

The Steps were featured prominently in a 1988 New York Times Magazine cover story remembered fondly by many of my classmates. Titled “Columbia Recovered” and written by Morris Dickstein ’61 on the 20th anniversary of the 1968 campus protests, it examined how 1968 impacted Columbia, for better and for worse. Returning to campus a generation later, Dickstein described how much the campus had improved since those infamous times.

It is that magazine’s cover photo, however, that has stayed with so many of us. Taken on one of those spectacular New York City spring afternoons, it seemed as if everyone we knew was on the Steps. (That’s me sitting atop Alma Mater.) At first glance, it’s a photo of students doing nothing more than enjoying a beautiful day. Looking more closely, the scene reveals a frenzy of activity and conversation. That candid snapshot succeeded in capturing the warmth, positive energy and friendships that defined my campus experience.

Known commonly as “The Photo,” it soon attained a special place in Columbia lore for my generation. My mother had it framed for me as a graduation gift. It’s held a prominent place in every office I’ve had. I glance at it almost every day, and it always brings a smile.

As the University recognizes the 50th anniversary of Spring 1968, I’d say Columbia has moved from “recovered” to “remarkable.” We College alumni are fortunate to be part of a vibrant community that comprises a forward-thinking administration, world-class faculty, outstanding students and dedicated former students.

The feeling of community on Morningside Heights is especially strong in May, with its even more special Columbia traditions, including Senior Week, Class Day and Commencement. The Alumni Parade of Classes, which began in 2004, is particularly energizing. It takes place on Class Day, and all alumni are invited to carry their class year banners in a processional that includes graduating students, faculty and administrators. This parade underscores the transition the graduates are making from students to alumni and emphasizes that our Columbia connection is a lifelong one. It’s an experience I highly recommend.

Reunion 2018 follows just weeks later, Thursday, May 31–Saturday, June 2, with special events on campus and throughout New York City. This year’s is for classes ending in 3 and 8, and the Class of 2017. All-Class Reunion 2018, to be held that Saturday, is open to all alumni. I love attending — it’s a great way to see friends from different years, revisit campus and reconnect to Columbia’s intellectual experience by attending Mini-Core Classes with faculty and lectures with alumni. And of course, to relive memories of sunny days on the Steps. Register for Reunion 2018 or All-Class Reunion 2018.

I hope to see many of you on campus this spring, and I also hope you’ll consider supporting Columbia by increasing your engagement with the College, donating to an opportunity that excites you or participating in any other way that keeps you connected. There’s no better time to renew friendships or your relationship with Columbia.