News Briefs

Dean James J. Valentini To Step Down


After 10 years at the helm of Columbia College, Dean James J. Valentini will conclude his term at the end of this academic year, in June 2022. A former chemistry department chair, he was appointed interim dean on September 2, 2011, and College dean on June 11, 2012.

“Serving as dean of Columbia College has truly been the greatest privilege of my professional life,” Valentini said in a September message announcing his departure. “I went from a boy whose earliest access to reading materials was a library bookmobile that made occasional visits to our little Appalachian town, to a scientist who was offered the dazzling opportunity to lead a top institution of higher learning.”

During his tenure as dean, Valentini was committed to two key priorities: enhancing the student experience and sense of well-being, and shaping a strategic, multi-dimensional vision for the College’s future, supported by fundraising initiatives designed to fulfill that vision at every level. Affectionately known as “Deantini,” he imparted a sense of joyful pride in the College’s distinct identity, and was known for his dedication to Beginner’s Mind, the practice of engaging with the world as if seeing everything for the first time, with eyes open to many possibilities.

“Anyone who has worked with Jim for even a short time feels his devotion to the College and his abiding appreciation for its unique and proud history,” President Lee C. Bollinger said. “When Jim departs as dean he will be missed as much for the spirit he has brought to the College as for any particular accomplishment, as many and as significant as they are.”

Plans to celebrate Valentini’s decade of service will be announced as they unfold.

Leadership News

Duchesne Drew ’89, president of Minnesota Public Radio since spring 2020, was elected to the University Board of Trustees in November. As president of MPR, Drew manages a network of 46 radio stations serving most of Minnesota. While at the College, he was both a staff writer and news editor for Spectator, and tutored at the Double Discovery Center. Drew is one of 14 College alumni on the 24-member board, which oversees Columbia’s governance, selecting the president, managing faculty and senior administrative appointments, monitoring the budget and supervising the endowment.

Ted Gregory ’74 was named director of diversity initiatives in the Office of Alumni and Development on November 16. In this newly created role, Gregory will be responsible for developing department-wide and unit-specific strategies and action plans to help prevent bias, discrimination and harassment, and to promote diversity, equity, inclusion and antiracism. He comes to the role after nearly nine years as Columbia’s director of diversity initiatives and talent retention, focusing on faculty recruitment and retention through the Office of the Provost, and coaching-staff diversity for Athletics.

Columbia Giving Day

Giving Day
The 10th annual Giving Day, held on October 20, raised $27,913,242 for the University through 21,359 gifts. Columbia College led the way among the schools, with 6,499 contributions totaling $6,080,704.25. These gifts provide resources for the College’s central priorities: financial aid, stipends for internships, the Core Curriculum and student life.

Alumni Awards

Plans are underway for the return of the John Jay Awards Dinner, which celebrates alumni for their distinguished professional achievement; this year’s event, which is scheduled for Wednesday, March 2, will honor the 2020 recipients, whose original dinner was canceled due to Covid-19. The honorees are Michael Barry ’89 (president and CEO of Ironstate Development); Lanny A. Breuer ’80, LAW’85 (vice-chair of Covington & Burling); Anna Fang ’04 (founding CEO and partner of ZhenFund); Poppy Harlow ’05 (co-anchor of CNN Newsroom); Wanda Marie Holland Greene ’89, TC’21 (head of school at The Hamlin School); and Victor H. Mendelson ’89 (co-president of HEICO Corp.).

The Gerald E. Sherwin Young Alumni Service Award, which honors individuals who have demonstrated exceptional service to the College’s young alumni community, was scheduled to be presented to Riley Jones IV ’17 at the Columbia College Alumni Association Board of Directors meeting on January 18. Jones’s volunteerism includes being president of the Black Alumni Council and a member of his class’s Reunion Committee. He was featured in Forbes’s 2019 30 Under 30 for Social Entrepreneurship and was a CCT Lion’s Pride honoree in 2018.

Academic Awards


Clockwise from top left: Arman Husein ’22, Sydni Scott ’22, Andrew Chan ’21 and Swati Ravi ’22.

Two seniors and one alumnus have been named Rhodes Scholars. The program — the oldest international scholarship in the world — offers 100 fully funded scholarships each year for recipients to pursue postgraduate study at Oxford. Arman Husein ’22, a double major in economics and history, will pursue an M.Sc. in economic and social history, followed by an M.Sc. in economics for development. Sydni Scott ’22, a political science major with a minor in African American and African Diaspora studies, plans to pursue an M.Phil. in politics (comparative government). Andrew Chan ’21, a double major in music and philosophy, plans to pursue an M.Phil. in musicology.

In addition, Swati Ravi ’22, an astrophysics major with a concentration in mathematics and biology, has been selected as a recipient of the George J. Mitchell Scholarship, which provides one year of postgraduate study at a university in either the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland. Ravi plans to pursue an M.Sc. in space, science and technology at University College Dublin.