When I was hired in April 1998 as the editor in chief of Columbia College Today, I was tasked with publishing this magazine on a more regular basis as the cornerstone of a new College communications effort. College leadership, both professional and volunteer, recognized that to increase alumni participation in the life of the school, there was a need to communicate with alumni on a regular basis — and in ways beyond asking for money. A magazine that reflected the best of the College’s liberal arts tradition and whose content strengthened the bond among alumni themselves and between alumni and the College was to be the flagship of that effort, and that continues to this day.
In my first “Within the Family” column, I wrote, “Our goal is to present CCT’s traditionally high quality editorial content in a more attractive and inviting package.” The key to that package was a switch to four-color printing from the black-and-white style that had given the magazine the look of a literary journal — a fine, scholarly journal, to be sure, but a journal, not a magazine. CCT’s design has steadily evolved since then and continues to evolve; a total redesign in 2015 gave us a fresher, more contemporary look that appeals to alumni of all ages.
I’ve always been proud of the magazine’s content. Our Class Notes section, authored by a stellar group of volunteer class correspondents, is among the most robust in the nation. Our “Around the Quads” section keeps readers abreast of what’s going on at Columbia College today, our “Lions” profiles spotlight some of the amazing members of the CC family and we introduce readers to at least one noteworthy student and one distinguished faculty member in each issue. Departments like “Columbia Forum,” “Bookshelf” and “Roar, Lion, Roar” add breadth to every issue. We’ve also mixed in an occasional themed issue. In the past few years we’ve covered “Coeducation,” “The Varsity Show,” “Global Columbia,” “Location, Location, Location,” “Food, Glorious Food” and in this issue, we offer our first “Experts” guide.
We’ve always tried to stay ahead of the curve by profiling alumni on the rise. Never were we more prescient than with our cover story in January 2005, when we featured a young alumnus who had just been elected to the U.S. Senate from Illinois and we asked, “Is This The New Face of the Democratic Party?” He sure was — less than four years later, Barack Obama ’83 was elected the 44th President of the United States, the only College alum to have occupied the Oval Office.
This is my final issue as editor in chief of CCT. After nearly 19 years at Columbia and 87 issues of this magazine, I am retiring effective December 31. It has been an honor to serve as the steward of our alumni magazine, and I plan to remain involved as a contributing writer. (Despite my best efforts, Jamie Katz ’72, BUS’80’s record of 25 years with the magazine and 24 years as editor remains intact.)
As anyone in publishing can tell you, a magazine is a collaborative effort, and I’ve been blessed to work with a host of talented team members through the years, including writer-editors Shira Boss ’93, JRN’97, SIPA’98; Timothy P. Cross GSAS’98; Donna Satow GS’65; Laura Butchy SOA’04; Lisa Palladino; Rose Kernochan BC’82; Ethan Rouen JRN’04, BUS’17; Alexis Boncy SOA’11 (née Tonti; more on her later); Elena Hecht BC’09; Anne-Ryan Heatwole JRN’09; and Jill Shomer; designers Linda Gates, J.C. Suares (now deceased) and Eson Chan; and University Photographer Eileen Barroso. We’ve also been aided by many talented work-study students, some of whom stayed with us for several years: Jonathan Lemire ’01, Peter Kang ’05, Carmen Jo Ponce ’08, Grace Laidlaw ’11, Karl Daum ’15 and Aiyana White ’18.
Thank you to Austin Quigley, dean of the College from 1995 to 2009, who recognized the value of a high-quality magazine to communicate with alumni and committed the financial resources needed to publish an upgraded CCT on a regular schedule. Also, a shout out to two members of his senior staff, now retired, for their support and guidance as I transitioned from sports writing/administration to the unique world of academia: Kathryn Yatrakis GSAS’81, dean of academic affairs, and Sue Mescher, dean of administration. Special thanks to Derek Wittner ’65, LAW’68, who hired me and was an ideal boss. His formula: Hire good people; set clear goals, expectations and accountability; provide the resources and support needed for success; and then let people do the job they were hired to do.
Finally, I am extremely pleased that Alexis Boncy is returning to CCT as my successor. Alexis joined CCT as managing editor shortly after graduating from SOA and proved to be one of my best hires. She is a tireless worker with an eye for both the big picture and the smallest detail. We are fortunate to be able to welcome Alexis back into the fold as CCT’s first female editor in chief beginning in February. I am thrilled that the magazine will be in such good hands, and I look forward to seeing it in my mailbox.
Published quarterly by the Columbia College Office of Alumni Affairs and Development for alumni, students, faculty, parents and friends of Columbia College.