“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.
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.
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.
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