Alumni in the News

Alumni in the News

Cyrus Habib ’03 was elected lieutenant governor of Washington state. The Democrat is now the nation’s highest-ranking Iranian-American elected official, after defeating Republican Marty McClendon in the November general election. President Barack Obama ’83 endorsed Habib, saying, “Cyrus’ intelligence, track record and proven commitment to Washington State set him apart.”

Columbians were winners in September at the 68th Primetime Emmy Awards: The popular Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer, created by Moira Demos ’96, SOA’08 and Laura Ricciardi SOA’07, won four Emmys, in the categories of Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series, Outstanding Writing for a Nonfiction Program, Outstanding Directing for a Nonfiction Program and Outstanding Picture Editing for a Nonfiction Program. Kate McKinnon ’06 took home the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her work on Saturday Night Live.

Lions are making big waves in the film industry: Jim Jarmusch ’75’s Gimme Danger, a documentary retrospective on the punk band The Stooges, was released on October 28. An AP article, “Iggy Pop: Jarmusch was first, only choice for Stooges doc,” quotes Stooges frontman Iggy Pop saying “[Jarmusch] knew all about the group and he had been coming to our shows anyway for no reason except to come to the show. ... I thought, well, this would be a great opportunity, it would elevate the group to have someone of this stature see whatever they see and share that with people. And I knew he had the ability.” On October 22, Dante Alencastre ’83 premiered his documentary, Raising Zoey, about a transgender teen described as “one of Los Angeles’ bravest, and youngest, trans rights activists.” Shanna Belott ’91 and Lara Stolman ’91 premiered the documentary Swim Team this fall. It follows a competitive New Jersey swim team of teens on the autism spectrum. Barry, a Netflix original film that debuted on December 16, follows President Barack Obama ’83 as he arrives in New York City in 1981 for his junior year at Columbia. The film was a highly anticipated look at the President’s college days from director Vikram Gandhi ’00, with the screenplay by Adam Mansbach ’98, SOA’00. And Bill Condon ’76’s live-action remake of the classic musical Beauty and the Beast (set for a March 2017 release) has been receiving significant coverage in anticipation of the film, including from Entertainment Weekly and Good Morning America.

Henry Billingsley ’75 has been named to the list of The Best Lawyers in America for 2017; he specializes in admiralty and maritime law with Tucker Ellis in Cleveland.

Two men dressed in black T-shirts


Tareq Abuissa ’14 and Pat Blute ’12, both Varsity Show alumni, premiered a tech parody musical, South of Market: The Musical, in October in San Francisco. The show sold out its preview run in 48 hours; VentureBeat says it “perfectly mocks tech industry egos,” while tech writer Melissa Eisenberg described the show in the San Francisco Examiner as “music, lights and a complete and utter satire of my life as a techie.”

Princess Francois ’11 was selected as a National 30 Under 30 Caribbean-American Emerging Leaders and Changemakers Honoree and was invited to the White House on October 3 to attend the first South by South Lawn Festival, “a festival of ideas, art, and action where changemakers, activists, and artists came together ... to share how they’re changing their communities.”

An Asian woman in a red shirt


Joanne Kwong ’97 recently became president of New York’s iconic Asian imports store Pearl River Mart, which closed in 2016, after 45 years in business, due to an astronomical rent increase. Kwong reopened the store on November 17 with a pop-up at 395 Broadway in TriBeCa and plans to officially relaunch in May 2017 following renovations. Kwong told CCT: “I want to continue the store’s original mission of serving as a ‘friendship store,’ one that encouraged cross-cultural joy in NYC for almost five decades. In this day and age, Asian culture no longer needs to be ‘introduced’ to New Yorkers, but Pearl River still has the ability to serve as a platform for Asian and Asian-American innovation, design and tradition in the form of capsule collections and collaborations with a variety of established and emerging Asian-American designers and artists, compelling content that explains cultural history and traditions, and a regular program of curated events, performances and exhibitions.”

— Anne-Ryan Heatwole JRN’09